Sunday, August 31, 2008

Prosciutto with Port-Marinated Figs and Gorgonzola Dolce

PlumpJack is a food, wine and hospitality group based in San Francisco that has locations in Squaw Valley and Napa Valley as well. Their humble beginnings began in the wine business when mayor, Gavin Newsom, opened up a little wine shop in San Francisco. Now, PlumpJack has restaurants, wineries, and boutique hotels. Not bad.

The PlumpJack Cookbook is definitely my style of cooking. In this cookbook book you'll find a range of recipes from Braised Lamb Shanks in Red Wine with Pomegranate/ Mint Gremolata to Sea Scallops with King Trumpet Mushrooms and Meyer Lemon Relish.

This was a great salad to kick off our dinner party last weekend. I doubled the port and honey so our figs were really saturated and yummy and subbed goat cheese for the Gorgonzola.

Prosciutto with Port-Marinated Figs and Gorgonzola Dolce

12 figs, halved
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons port
12 slices of prosciutto
3 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
Salt and pepper
1 bunch of watercress or arugula
12 walnut halves

Add port, honey and salt and pepper to bowl and whisk together. Add figs cut side down and marinate at room temperature for at least two hours.

Place a couple slices of prosciutto on each plate. Arrange figs cut side up and add a dollop of cheese on top of each fig. Place walnut half on top of cheese. Arrange arugula or watercress in center of plate and drizzle entire salad with remaining port mixture.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Alice Water's Vinaigrette

Last night my sister took me to the preview party for Slow Food Nation in San Francisco. There we met famed chef and slow food pioneer Alice Waters. Her restaurant, Chez Panisse, has been practicing her local and sustainable preach for over 25 years. Cooking segments are being taped in the Green Kitchen, a small studio in the convention hall, to be posted on You Tube shortly after the event wraps. The idea is to show viewers how to cook and knowing your ingredients. Fresh food is best left simple. See for yourself in Alice's cookbook, The Art of Simple Food.

This is the recipe she shared with us that you can find in her book:

Alice Water's Vinaigrette

• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
• Salt
• Fresh-ground black pepper
• 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

This is the sauce I make most often, and if it’s made out of good olive oil and good wine vinegar, it’s the best salad dressing I can imagine. At its simplest, vinaigrette is a mixture of vinegar and oil in a ratio of 1 part vinegar to about 3 or 4 parts oil. Start by estimating roughly how much vinaigrette you will need. This depends on what you’re using it for; a quarter cup is more than enough for four servings of green salad, for example, but you really never need to measure out exact amounts. Start by pouring the vinegar into a bowl. Dissolve a pinch of salt in it and taste for balance. The salt has a real relationship with the vinegar. When you add just enough salt, it subdues the acid of the vinegar and brings it into a wonderful balance. Try adding salt bit by bit and tasting to see what happens. How much salt is too much? How much is too little? What tastes best? If you add too much salt, just add a touch more vinegar.

Grind in some black pepper and whisk in the oil. The vinaigrette should taste brightly balanced, neither too oily nor overly acidic. Adjust the sauce, adding more vinegar if you’ve added too much oil, and more salt, if it needs it.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Fig Season

Summer may be coming to an end but Fig Season has just begun. That's good news for us all, especially my little sister. When you eat a ripe fig, there are few fruits that can beat it, if at all. A ripe fig is luscious, sweet, beautiful in color and is delicious fresh or dried. But my favorite is Fig Jam. My sister always has some store bought jam on-hand and it's a perfect accompaniment with any cheese platter, especially one with goat cheese. Here is a homemade recipe to take advantage of the fig harvest this fall.

Fig Jam
5 pounds fresh figs, chopped
6 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of lemon juice
To prepare chopped figs: Cover figs with boiling water. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain, stem, and chop figs.

Combine figs, sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a large sauce pot. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly until thick. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Add lemon juice and cook 1 minute longer. Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Adjust caps. Process 15 minutes on a boiling water bath. Yields about 5 pints.


Pride Mountain Vineyards

I've made some great friends since I started working at Duckhorn this summer. My time is winding down and so is my friend Jen's so we decided to a tasting with our other partner in crime, Matt, before our last day. Jen used to run the wine club at Kellogg and has recently graduated. Matt is a semi-retired investment banker from San Francisco that is trying to learn the ins and outs of the wine business so he can pursue his own label one day. They are both very knowledgeable about wines and the perfect pair to do tastings with.

We decided to start at Pride Mountain Vineyards and work our way down Spring Mountain and hit the mom and pop wineries. Pride was a home run and I would have to say that it's a must if you are ever in Napa Valley.

Pride is a 235-acre estate divided by the Sonoma and Napa county lines. It has gorgeous caves (see room below for private events), incredible views, knowledgeable and passionate employees and tasty, tasty wines.
Pride is ran by the Pride family. They purchased the land in 1989 and had their first vintage in 1991. Jim Pride (who sadly passed in 2004) started the Pride Institute, a dental practice management company. While Jim focused on his business his wife Carolyn managed the operations at the winery.

Pride's consulting winemaker, Bob Foley, is known for his unique wine making style. He began his career at Heitz, moved on to Markham and has devoted the rest of his career since to Pride and wine education within the industry.

The Viognier and Cabernet are not to be missed even though I don't think you can go wrong with any of their wines. Pride is appointment only so be sure to call ahead (707) 963-4949 and it's worth the drive.


Slow Food Nation

I don't know what you are doing this Labor Day Weekend but I plan on attending Slow Food Nation in San Francisco, one of the largest celebrations of food in this great nation. There will be speakers, dinners, chef demonstrations, workshops, taste pavilions of every kind and much more. Tickets are still available for Sunday night so don't miss out on all the foodie fun! Visit


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Indoor Clambake

When Duckhorn had its employee dinner this summer, they had a local caterer whip up a mean outdoor clambake. It really was heaven and a great way to break the ice. Once they pour out the pots on butcher paper, all you do is roll up your sleeves and go at it with your hands. There are no utensils insight.

This recipe was a feature on Epicurious and provides an excellent recipe to recreate this dish on a smaller scale and in your own kitchen.

Indoor Clambake
2 pounds medium new potatoes, red or white
4 ears corn, husked
2 pounds soft-shelled steamer clams, scrubbed
1 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
1 pound Spanish-style chorizo or linguiça, cut crosswise into 4 pieces (andouille or smoked kielbasa sausage can be substituted)
4 (1 to 1 1/4 pound) live lobsters
5 large eggs

For Cooking
4 large mesh bags (such as onions or citrus fruit come in) or 4 pouches made from several wide layers cheesecloth
Kitchen twine
Large pot (5 or more gallons) with tightly-fitting lid

For Serving
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
Old Bay seasoning
4 lemon wedges


Place potatoes in large saucepan; cover with cold water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook just until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Into each bag or cheesecloth pouch, put: 2 potatoes, l ear corn, 1/4 of steamers, 1/4 of mussels, 1 piece sausage, 1 lobster, and 1 egg. Gather bags or pouches together and tie closed with kitchen twine.

Fill 5-gallon pot with 1 inch of water and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add steamer rack or enough rockweed to keep clambakes elevated. Cover and bring to rolling boil.

Gently layer bags in pot. Nestle extra egg in a central position where it's easily retrievable. Cover tightly and steam 15 minutes, maintaining water at full rolling boil. Uncover pot, set aside extra egg, and gently rearrange bags from top to bottom to promote even cooking. Replace egg and re-cover pot.

Steam additional 5 minutes, then retrieve extra egg and crack open. If it's hard-cooked, clambakes are done. If egg is not yet cooked, steam bags an additional 5 to 10 minutes. (If you're unsure, untie one bag and test with another egg). When done, lobsters will be completely red. Transfer each bag to large plate and serve immediately.

To serve, divide melted butter among 4 small cups and season to taste with salt. Ladle some broth from pot into 4 small bowls. Cut open bags. Discard any steamers or mussels that have not opened and loosely arrange food on plates. Sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning. Place one cup of butter, one dish of broth, and one lemon wedge on each plate. Have bowls for shells and plenty of napkins at the ready.

• For an outdoor clambake, the food is layered from the longest cooking time (on the bottom) to the shortest. In the indoor version, all ingredients must cook in the same time, so the potatoes are boiled in advance.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Noodle Nest with Tapenade

This recipe was published as an Olympic Lunch, hence the title. My husband, Kevin, loooves anchovies and olives so this was right up his alley.


1/2 pound linguine
1 cup tapenade (recipe follows)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 pound Halibut steak or fillet, 1 inch thick

Boil: Cook noodles until just tender. Drain and toss with half the tapenade. Curl into a circle on a serving platter.
Grill: Mix olive oil and lemon juice in a shallow bowl. Dip in halibut, coating both sides. Grill over a hot fire until just cooked through, 4 minutes per side.
Serve: Let fish rest 2 minutes. Slice thinly. Arrange slices in the center of the noodle nest. Top with remaining tapenade. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.


1 orange
3/4 cup oil cured black olives, pitted
1 can anchovy fillets, drained
3 cloves garlic
1 small bunch parsley
1 sprig rosemary
1'4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons capers, drained
Freshly ground black pepper

Zest and juice the orange. Chop the zest together with olives, anchoies, garlic, parsley leaves and rosemary needles. Scoop into a bowl. Stir in olive oil, capers and 2 Tablespoons orange juice. Season with black pepper.


Roasted Harrisa Chicken

Last year, Napa debuted its Oxbow Market. This wonderful place reminds me very much of Chelsea Market in NYC but with an extensive wine bar instead of the Food Network studio. It has a charcuterie spot (Fatted Calf), a cheesemonger (Oxbow Cheese Merchant), a seafood outpost (Kanaola) and much more. Oxbow is located just next to Copia which was Robert and Margaret Mondavi's philanthropic pet project that created a center where food, wine and the arts are all celebrated. All this greatness aside, the place that really caught my attention and the rest of the cash in my wallet was a gorgeous spice stand by the name of Whole Spice. The best part about Whole Spice was Shuli Madone, its passionate owner. Originally from Israel, Shuli brought his family tradition to the states and let me tell you that this guy knows his stuff.

I've found that when you approach an exciting market filled with specialty stores that it is best to leave it to the pros. Ask them what they like. What they suggest. And why. To own a store like this or to even work in one requires passion. These people are often great cooks. They love to share their recipes and will talk for hours if you let them. Sometimes, these folks are better than any cooking show or cookbook you can get your hands on. I love that.

Shuli was no exception. He insisted that I take some free Herbs de Provence Sea Salt to test against my own since I told him 'I already have that'. I can tell you for a fact that his is much better. I also made it home with a Zhug Dipping Sauce that is a spice mix that I will add some olive oil to and serve with a baguette for snack-time around the house. A teaspoon will do just fine with a 1/4 cup of olive oil. It's spicy but Drew and I love our spice. However, his go-to, the one I HAD to get, was his Harrisa Spice Mix.

Harrisa is a hot blend that can accompany a variety of foods and adds an unmistakable Middle Eastern flavor. It's very common in North African cuisine and can be used in couscous, soups, salads, veggies and kabobs. But I'll use this mostly in my marinades for lamb, beef or chicken just as he suggested as well. The ingredients include chili California, chili New Mexico, coriander, garlic, cumin, cayenne and citric acid. Oh yeah, it can be made into a paste by smashing up some garlic and adding a dash of olive oil in a mortar and pestle.

Before I packed up my spices to move on to the wine bar, Shuli gave me this wonderful recipe for my Harrisa Spice Blend:

Roasted Harrisa Chicken
2 lbs chicken leg quarters
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons Harrisa
5 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl or mortar and pestle crush garlic and add Harrisa and olive oil. Mix it into a paste. Season chicken with S&P on both sides. Generously rub chicken with paste until covered.

Heat oven to 400 degrees and roast in pan for an hour. Serve immediately.

Turkey Burgers

To be honest, I screwed this recipe up. I haven't grilled a lot of turkey burgers in my day and since they are lean they do not extract fatty juices that create a great natural divide between the grill and the meat. Instead, each time I flipped these burgers the grilled portion would stick to the grill and rip off the bottom. Thus my burgers became thinner and thinner and thinner. A medium heat and like brush of oil on the grill will solve that problem. I guess there is always next time...

Here is a great recipe from Martha Stewart's website. I would sub panko instead of breadcrumbs but if you don't have panko around it's no big deal.

Turkey Burgers

Serves 4
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey, preferably 92 to 93 percent lean
1/2 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
4 thinly sliced scallions
1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil, for grill
4 hamburger buns

Sliced tomatoes, red or white onion, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and lettuce leaves, for serving

Heat grill to high. In a medium bowl, use a fork to gently combine ground turkey with cheese, scallions, breadcrumbs, mustard, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Gently form mixture into four 1-inch-thick patties.

Lightly oil grill. Place patties on the hottest part of the grill; sear until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Move the patties to cooler part of the grill; continue grilling until cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes per side.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Boboli Post Script

OK Brand new post, brand new person on this fabulous website that I have been reeling in the benefits but not giving back...not good. I'm going to change that. Before I post some recipes, I have to comment on your post from August 18th re: remember that wonderful store, Symons General Store in Petoskey, Lizzie? I saw a creative prop on the aisle that had a Boboli Grill recipe. The instructions are: Grill cheese side down of Boboli in a closed grill for 1-2 minutes. Flip over and add Roasted Garlic Onion and Fig Jam from Stonewall Kitchen (our choice, any jam or tapenade will work) and crumbled goat cheese. Continue grilling for 4 minutes with lid closed...incredibly delicious, we tried different spreads and substituted feta and gorganzola all summer and loved every one!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Chameleon: Boboli Crust

Boboli pizza crust is nothing special. You can find it anywhere. Actually, the brand even makes its own pasta sauces and more generic offerings these days and are available in just about every grocery store. But these crusts can really take a new meaning if you don't actually use them for making pizza.

First off, props to my Aunt Kristi who has been using this bread as everything BUT pizza crust since I can remember. Now, I see crusts like these served alongside some roasted garlic and blue cheese ( a Tra Vigne classic), next to pasta with some olive oil or other innovative ways. In fact, I used it as an 'English Muffin' for my Eggs Benedict with pesto hollandaise (had to throw the pesto in there because it was so dang good) the other day. Best part was I grilled it instead of baked it so it took a whole new dimension and gave it some presentation flare, too. So stock up on this stuff cause you never know when it will come handy.

Mexican Torta

Those with high cholesterol beware of the Torta. It takes no prisoners...

It's good to be back in the land of good Mexican food. Napa Valley is over 65% Hispanic and there are great local markets, such as La Luna and Azteca Market, that don't mess around. Both usually have lines around the block during lunch so go during off hours. La Luna is a store I have been going to since I was a kid. I used to ride with my friend from her nearby vineyard (now a HWY 29 hot spot by the name of Peju Province) on their 3-wheeler to grab lunch and go to their nearby stable and ride horses in the afternoon. They sell everything from hot peppers to wedding dresses. It's a town gem.

Regardless of my history with tasty Mexican cuisine, it's hard to go a long day of hard work in the Valley without filling up on a torta. Now, these are no joke. Beginners should split one. They don't mess around and Mexican food is never good left over. You MUST eat on-site. Take-out is for rookies and drunks.

If you cannot find this sandwich locally at a Mexican or Cuban joint than try to make it at home after a day of some hard labor or if you are just in the mood. Tortas are a pretty generic term so basically all you you need is to pick a protein (beef, pork, shrimp, fish...) and choose from refried beans, scrambled eggs, milanesa, chipotle, avocado, sour cream, lettuce, jalapeño, tomato, and cheese. The bread is key so expect a nice soft white roll with a house sauce (red or green). Also, if I were you, I'd add spice wherever possible.

Enjoy your next (or first) Mexican sandwich.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chateau Montelena

While Drew was in town, we picked up a copy of the Judgement of Paris. This is the story of the famous blind tasting conducted just outside of Paris between French and Californian wines judged by George Taber and leading industry professionals. California's victory put Napa Valley wines on the map and brought some passionate vintners some well deserved respect. One of the wineries that competed in this tasting was Chateau Montelena. On my day off, we hopped in the car and drove 10 minutes to Calistoga to see it in person and learn more of its dynamic history that began in 1882.
For instance, did you know that there is a gorgeous man-made pond dedicated to a past owner's wife named Jade that descended from China? Did you know that they remodeled the winery into their home and the home was later remodeled back into the winery and tasting room?
Bottle Shock just released in town and is an exaggerated tale of the Judgment of Paris that depicts Napa Valley in the 70's as a hippie culture where vintners surf in the afternoon. Trust me, this was not the case back then. However, it is a reminder of how far California wines have come and how they have paved the way for more emerging wines from regions in other countries, such as New Zealand and Chile.

Steamed Artichokes

There are few things better than a steamed artichoke. I grew up on these. They were my father's favorite. And when you serve these yummy leaves with a caper-mayonnaise dipping sauce you can do no wrong. Artichokes are pointy, prickly and weird looking. So when you serve these to someone that doesn't spend that much time in the kitchen they are really impressed. Truth is they are a piece of cake if you have a sharp knife and a pair of kitchen scissors.

When selecting artichokes, choose those whose petals have not opened far. The tighter and more compact the artichoke, the fresher.

Steamed Artichokes
1 artichoke
1/2 lemon, squeezed
2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 bay leaf

Cut off or trim end of artichoke stem. Create a 'cross' slit on the bottom of the steam but not very deep. If desired, snip thorny tip off each leaf with kitchen scissors. Wash artichokes, taking care to shake out excess water so they will not be soggy when steamed. Place in a vegetable steamer, covered, over boiling water and add the juice of a half lemon, the olive oil and bay leaf. Steam for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on size. The artichokes are ready when one of outer leaves can easily be removed. Serve with caper-mayonnaise.

1/3 cup of mayonnaise (the real stuff, please)
2 tablespoons capers, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons of dried tarragon

Whisk all contents together with a fork and serve cold.

Shanghai Fried Noodles

We went to San Francisco for the day to apartment search and stayed with my sister and her husband at their new house in the Haight. As much as I have loved living in Napa this summer, there really isn't a lot of ethnic food at your finger tips (with the exclusion of Mexican, of course). So when my sister asked me what I was in the mood for I didn't hesitate to say Asian. Turns out that she has a fantastic spot around the corner where dishes run in single digits called Citrus Club. This place really hit the spot and portions ran very large so you get a huge bang for your buck. I ordered the Shanghai Noodles with Flank Steak so I did a quick search and pulled this recipe from Food Network so I can try to make it at home. I heart udon noodles.

Shanghai Fried Noodles
1 pound fresh Shanghai noodles, or Japanese udon noodles
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
12 ounces flank steak, sliced into 1/4-inch strips
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced green onions, plus 1 cup cut-on-a-bias green onions
3 cups julienned Napa cabbage
1/2 teaspoon minced jalapeno

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the noodles until al dente, about 8 minutes. Rinse under cold running water and drain well. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the rice wine, hoisin, and cornstarch. Add the beef, toss to coat, and marinate for 15 minutes. In another bowl, combine the dark soy, soy sauce and sugar, and stir well to dissolve the sugar. Place a wok over a high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, swirling to coat. When hot, add the garlic, ginger, and minced green onions, and cook, stirring quickly, for 10 seconds. Add the beef and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the cabbage and stir-fry for 3 minutes.

Transfer to a platter and return the wok to a high heat. Swirl the remaining tablespoon of peanut oil in the wok and once hot, add the noodles to the pan and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the sliced
green onions and jalapeno and sauce and toss all for 1 minute. Add the beef and stir to heat
through. Serve immediately.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kristi's Summer Pasta with Brie

When I crave some home cooking I crave many of my Aunt Kristi's staple recipes, especially her twist on Silver Palate's Summer Pasta. She often subs grape tomatoes and Capellini pasta. In addition, sometimes she likes to add some olives and homemade pesto. I love this stuff...

Kristi's Summer Pasta with Brie

4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (can sub grape tomatoes)
1 lb Brie cheese, rind removed, torn into irregular pieces
1 cup clean fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
3/4 to 1 cup, plus
1 Tbsp, best quality olive oil
2 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cappellini (angel hair)
Freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese

Combine tomatoes, Brie, basil, garlic, 3/4-1 cup olive oil and salt (optional) and pepper in a large serving bowl. Prepare at least 2 hours ahead before serving and set aside, covered, at room temperature.Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and remaining salt. Add pasta and boil until tender but still firm, 8 to 10 minutes.Drain pasta and immediately toss with tomato sauce. Serve at once, passing the peppermill and grated cheese if you like.Serves 4 to 6.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chimney Rock and Regusci

Drew and I decided to go to the Napa County Fair yesterday after spending a day poolside at Meadowood. I haven't been to the Napa County Fair since I was a kid. My good friend Tish and I were in 4H together and raised livestock and sold them at the livestock auction each year. Don't laugh. It paid for my first year of college. 4H breeds livestock but they breed entrepreneurs, too.
The fair was awesome. Corndogs. People watching. The Gravitron and Tilt a Whirl. It's great to feel like a kid again.
Before we dove into the fair we decided to exercise the luxury of some wine tasting along the way. I have to be honest, I am milking my free tastings this summer. Why not? I'm industry and it's like living in NYC and not going to all the great restaurants for free. There is NO way I am not riding this one out. On top it all, I have learned a TON about wine and have started a decent cellar.

Chimney Rock was the best tasting of my summer so far. I have visited over 3o wineries (including St. Clement today) and I had to rip Drew off this tasting bar. Our host, Jim, was very passionate and knowledgeable and the wines spoke for themselves. They make special wines. At 40,000 cases a year, this will be our celebratory wine. In fact, we plan to buy a bottle for our move to San Francisco in September.

It was getting late but Regusci has been on my list to check off. This family has owned property in the valley since the 30's. They make about 5,000 cases a year with a hilarious Welch man in the tasting room to boot. The grounds are gorgeous so pack a lunch for a picnic.

Stay tuned for Thursday's jam-packed day in the Stags Leap District...


Monday, August 11, 2008

Flora Srings

One of the most anticipated events of the summer has been the opening of Flora Springs Highway 29 tasting room leading into St. Helena.

Now, I'm going on the record to say that I have a special place in my heart for Flora Springs. Not only did my best friend get married at their beautiful property, she married into one of the nicest families on the planet. The Garveys represent all that is good in this valley and are a genuine class act. This is a family-run vineyard named after Sean's grandmother, Flora, and for the natural water source they are blessed with on their property. This tasting room has gorgeous views from both floors and you can even spot the winery that is tucked back on Zinfandel Lane just north. The event was heavily attended by respected vintners, trade and, most importantly, family and good friends. After all, what good is a party without the ones you love?
The treat of the night was their 25th anniversary Cabernet that they poured on the second floor with a chocolate pairing. Those on the first floor enjoyed their Rosato and Pinot Grigio. Coupled with all of these delicious wines was a great selection of small bites, including spicy noodles, bacon wrapped figs and miniature carnitos tacos. Just take my word and make Flora Springs a stop on your next trip to Napa Valley. Come see how they share their passion for family and wine.

L'Arbre Croche Beach Grilled Three Cheese Sandwich

L'Arbre Croche, a private community on Little Traverse Bay between Petoskey and Harbor Springs, Michigan, is a special place that was inspired by Sea Ranch in Mendocino County, California. The beach at L'Arbre Croche is a great base for all ages in our family for planning activities, relaxing with a summer read, or checking out the magic cold springs. It is also a great place to have lunch at the beach house managed by Jane who delights in serving several comfort food items including my favorite, the Grilled Three Cheese Sandwich accompanied by a Half and Half.

I order mine with bacon which should make this a good post on "Everything is Better with Bacon".

The sandwich is made with tomatoes, grilled onions, bacon, and three cheeses, cheddar, American and Swiss, on French Bread thickly spread with mayonnaise and buttered on both the top and the bottom. This Midwest classic is grilled in a omelet pan with the weight of a small dish on the top slice on a gas burner adjusted to medium high heat.

This is a good order for all ages after an active morning of outdoor activities although I notice the younger members of our family still go for the mac and cheese or a hot dog.

I seem to always dip my sandwich in a pool of ketchup on my plate. The Half and Half is really an Arnold Palmer, a mixture of equal parts iced tea and lemonade.

When I was a cadet at West Point, special Sunday lunches sometimes featured the open faced version of this grilled three cheese sandwich, and I think this version at the L'Arbre Croche beach house is a pleasant reminder of those Sunday lunches after Cadet Chapel. The only casual meal of the week.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Green Onion and Artichoke Heart Fritatta

Who knew fritattas were so easy? I skipped the whole skillet-into-the-oven method and just whisked everything together and put in a pie dish and popped into the oven. It turned out great and you can use whatever ingredients you want. I chose to go with green onions and artichokes hearts.

Green Onion and Artichoke Heart Fritatta
1 can artichoke hearts, quartered
4 green onions, chopped
10 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup basil
1/2 fontina cheese
1/4 Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk everything together and pour into greased pie dish. Pop into oven and cook for 40-50 minutes. Add extra Parmesan on top and place under broiler until cheese melts and is slightly brown.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Joe's Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

Ever invite yourself over to dinner? Well that's exactly the case here. Once I heard that the Garvey's friend from Nashville was whipping up a gumbo dinner I couldn't help but secure myself a bowl. Joe labored over this dish all day using the techniques and flavors he learned from his time spent in New Orleans. Andouille sausage, smoked ham, mussels and more. He even made his own seafood stock.

However, cooking is only one of his talents. Joe's a very accomplished musician. So after a delicious dinner he pulled out his guitar and jammed with Sean and his uncle and their close friend that played the stand up bass. Good times all around. We were in heaven.

The gumbo had a perfect spice to it. Just the right amount of kick. He also searched high and low for sasafrass which tastes a lot like sage to garnish on top. This was the real deal and it paid off. Thanks Joe!

Joe's Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

3/4 lb Andouille sausage
1 lb. Shrimp (shells on)
10 or12 Fresh Mussels
4oz. Smoked Ham(diced)
1 cup Diced Yellow Onion
1 cup Diced Bell Pepper
1 cup Diced Celery
1/2 cup Corn Oil
3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Thyme
1 tbsp Salt
6 quarts Seafood Stock (made from shells of shrimp)
8 searvings of white rice

For stock:
Add onion, shrimp shells, mussel shells, celery and pour over enough cold water to cover the stock ingredients; bring to a boil over high heat, then gently simmer at least 4 hours, preferably 8 hours, replenishing the water as needed to keep about 1 quart of liquid in the pan. The pot may be covered or set a lid askew on it. Strain, cool and refrigerate until needed. If you want a richer stock, start with at least 2 cups of the strained basic stock and continue to simmer it until the liquid is reduced by half (for one cup of rich stock).

For gumbo:
Combine peppers, more onions, and more celery in a bowl and have ready next to the stove. In a large heavy skillet (cast iron is best) heat oil until it just begins to smoke. Gradually add flour, whisking constantly. Continue whisking constantly and cook over medium to medium-high heat until roux is dark brown and very fragrant. Add vegetable mixture and stir with a wooden spoon, continuing to cook, for 2 minutes. Add salt and dry seasonings and garlic and stir to combine, cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes, then remove pan from heat.

Place shrimp stock in a large Dutch oven or stockpot and bring to a gentle boil. Gradually add roux mixture to boiling stock, whisking constantly, until completely incorporated and dissolved. Return to a boil and add the andouille, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then add shrimp and turn off heat. Let gumbo sit for 5 minutes to allow shrimp to cook, then serve immediately over a scoop of plain white rice. Note: You can do everything in this recipe up to the point of adding the shrimp beforehand; bring gumbo up to a boil before adding shrimp to serve. Add searving of rice to bowl.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies

My friends Lindsay and Sean just celebrated their wedding anniversary with an overnight trip to San Francisco. There she said they shopped until they dropped and wound up at Tom's Cookie stand in the basement of Macy's. The first thing she saw were their Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies. She grabbed a couple and was in heaven. So when they returned from their short trip, she attempted to make her own. This is the recipe she used and she managed to make them even better.

Important to note, she used no mixer, melted/softened the butter and used milk chocolate chips instead of semi sweet. She says the semis are too sharp for the malt. Lastly, the malt is essential. Malt is hard to find but it's the key ingredient so go for the hunt or order online.

Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup malt powder
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and cream with the butter. The mixture will look a bit grainy. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat together until fluffy. Add the malt powder and mix at low speed just until combined. One-third at a time, add the flour mixture, beating after each addition just until combined. Gently mix in the chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoons onto the baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your cookies.

The cookies will be flat. Let cool on wire racks and store in an airtight container.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Perfect Day in Napa Valley

My boyfriend just finished taking the California Bar Exam so when he showed up seeing triple and fried from his 3 day test I planned a day of relaxation and celebration. First stop was the St. Helena Farmers Market to grab some goodies and visit with my sister and her kids. I also managed to get my hands on some burratta. Score. Chefs from Culinary Institute of America roam the stands and you can catch chef demonstrations usually at 10am each week.
After that we went to Meadowood. My family has been members for over 30 years and it's built quite the reputation. In fact, the president stayed there two weeks ago. The best part is that there is no corkage fee so you can bring a bottle from home and enjoy it poolside. We popped a bottle of Schramsberg leftover from my little sister's wedding to wash down the salads we had for lunch. 3 hours in the sun and we were getting fried. We changed back into our clothes and took off to do some wine tasting.

I knew that I had to eventually get to Rombauer since almost everyone that goes to Duckhorn either goes there next or comes from there. Rombauer is known for its Chardonnay. But we enjoyed their Merlot which was a lot lighter that the one I am used to at Duckhorn. We also enjoyed the Zinfandel but we went for the '04 Merlot in the end. Good thing to mention is that they allow picnicking. So grab a snack or sandwich, buy a bottle and enjoy yourself.
The concierge at Meadowood made us a reservation at Revana. Heidi Barrett. 'Nuff said. Heidi Barrett is a celebrity in her own right in the wine business. She built quite the reputation as winemaker at Screaming Eagle and Grace Family. We took a bottle of their Cab home but it was painful to purchase. $135 a bottle and you only taste one wine. Ouch. Skip this if you are on a budget.
Last stop before we hit the deck at Auberge du Soleil for people watching, a cocktail and killer view was Grgich Hills. Mike Grgich is old school. He's been around for ages and is best known for the 'Paris Tasting of '76' where a blind tasting made a name for Burgundies in Napa Valley. Their Fume Blanc rocks but we went home with the Cab that knocked Drew's socks off.

We ended the night at Tra Vigne dining under the stars and I can vouch for Drew that 2 months of studying was worth the day in paradise. Almost forgot, we live here.


The Tie that Binds

Food brings people together. That is why we often bring food when friends have babies, are sick or in my case move. This beautiful housewarming gift was left on my doorstep by my cute friend Boo. With it was a note explaining the items in the basket and this Irish Proverb. It read:

Wine- May you always have something to celebrate ( a bottle of Beckstoffer 1975)
Salt- May your life always have flavor
Bread- May you never go hungry

It was truly beautiful.