February 2008 Archives

Pigs & Pinot

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By Robert Farmer


One could spend a lifetime enjoying Wine Country only by its events. The calendar year is jam-packed with themed events that were created to spotlight and celebrate the many and diverse aspects of Wine Country. All wine regions have them, and some are of course more alluring than others. Others still speak to certain people on an acute level. And those nice-market events are where you can find your personal Valhalla.

One such event for me in particular is Pigs & Pinot at the Hotel Healdsburg (800-889-7188; www.hotelhealdsburg.com). Now in its third year, this descriptively titled weekend-long event is the brainchild of chef Charlie Palmer, whose Dry Creek Kitchen is one of the great destination restaurants in California Wine Country. Pigs & Pinot, as you have by now likely surmised, is a celebration of the flavor combination of pork and pinot noirs--Palmer's professed favorite food and wine varietal pairing. The weekend is comprised of a gala dinner, wine and food pairings, and seminars and parties related to all things pork and pinot noir. It's at once decadent and educational--one of the most innovative culinary-themed events in the region. Attendees will be treated to samples of more than 50 pinot noirs from some of the top producers in Sonoma County and the world. The wines are paired with such pork delicacies as charcuterie, homemade sausages, pates, and one-off creations from chef Palmer as well as well-known chefs from San Francisco, New York, even France.

Guests are also invited to check out "swine and wine" seminars and a demonstration-style cooking class. Essentially, when the weekend is over, you'll know about all there is to know about the pairing. And, you might also need to hit the gym. Hotel Healdsburg conveniently has one, and they are also offering special weekend packages for the event. The extravaganza begins Friday, March 14th, and lasts through the weekend. And to make it even more worthwhile, proceeds from the event benefit Share Our Strengths and Healdsburg's St. John's School.

Oregon Fudge Bars from Euphoria Chocolate

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Filberts, also known as hazelnuts are what make these brownies so uniquely Oregonian. They're perfect for an after school treat or with fresh raspberries for a decadent evening dessert.


  • 1 cup Dark Chocolate Buttons
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped filberts (hazelnuts)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup white sugar

In a heavy saucepan or microwave oven, melt chocolate with shortening. Remove from heat. With wire whip, blend in sugars. Beat eggs lightly with vanilla and salt and stir into chocolate mixture. Mix flour with baking powder. Add, all at once, beating until smooth.

Spread into greased 9-inch square pan. Sprinkle filberts over top and pat down with a spatula. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Cool before cutting into bars. Makes 36 1 1/2" square bars.

The Duck Stops Here

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By Courtney Cochran

Long the doyenne of the luxe food lexicon, foie gras appears to be on its way out.  This week's shuttering of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Cambridge following violent protests by anti-foie gras activists is just the latest in a string of retractions relating to sales of the delicacy.  To wit, top Chicago toque Charlie Trotter pulled the controversial item from his menus in 2005, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has approved legislation that will phase out foie gras production in the Golden State by 2012.

Made from the fattened livers of force-fed geese and ducks - the inelegant process is known as gavage - foie gras is a source of conflict for many diners who applaud its singular savory-rich taste but shrink from tales of how it's made.  But, with outbursts like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF)'s recent vandalism in Cambridge - in response to which the restaurant pulled foie gras from its menu - it's a tale few are able to ignore at this point.  

Grilled Bartlett Pears and Candied Walnuts

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Wine Pairing:

2003 Late Harvest Viognier, $25

Ingredients - Candied Walnuts
  • 1 cup Walnut halves
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 + tsp. Togarashi - Japanese chile mix
  • Salt 
Ingredients - Pears
  • 3 ea. Bartlett pears, cut into 1/8ths, Cores removed
  • Sugar to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. Canola oil
  • 1 lb. Point Reyes Blue Cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. Honey

Provençal Prodigy

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By Courtney Cochran


Travelers who find themselves on the charming Central California coast are well advised to stop in to Corkscrew Café (corkscrewcafe.com), an almost unbelievably cute eatery tucked into the rolling hills outside Carmel.  With its early Monterey mission meets-Provençal farmhouse décor and vibrant gardens, this gem from the same folks behind Carmel's well-liked Casanova restaurant is almost worth a trip in and of itself.

Settle into a table on the popular terrace when the weather is nice, or dine in one of the spot's appealingly well-lit dining rooms, where colorful walls and cool tile floors act as antidotes to the sometimes scorching heat outside.  When it comes to food, the spot's a haven for diners who appreciate low-frills fare made with only the freshest ingredients (there's an on-site garden, natch).  Don't miss the signature pâté of duck and pistachio, the daily-changing selection of burgers and sandwiches made exclusively from hormone-free meats and the superbly simple desserts made in-house.  Wash it all down with a rich red from Georis Winery - located next door and owned by the same family - then linger to check out the café's impressive collection of antique corkscrews.

55 West Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley, CA 93921 * (831) 659-8888 * Open for lunch Mon-Sat & dinner Fri & Sat

Grilled Lamb Loin with Zinfandel Sage Morel Sauce

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Recipe developed for Amador Foothill Winery by
Matt Pinsonneult, Chef, Sierra Nevada Tap Room and Restaurant Chico, CA

Heady Zinfandels, like those of the Sierra Foothills, pair beautifully with late-winter meats and mushrooms. This recipe takes fresh spring lamb and marries it with a luscious Zinfandel sauce complemented by the earthiness of sage and morel mushrooms.

Big Praise for Small Scale Dining

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By Courtney Cochran

Last year Healdsburg diners hit the jackpot when hot spot Ravenous moved from its digs next door the Raven Theater into a more spacious spot across the street, expanding its own business while leaving room for new favorite Ravenette in its pint-sized former location.  The new micro eatery - which seats no more than a dozen or so diners comfortably - has quickly won the hearts of locals who care more about delicious, simply prepared food and friendly service than they do about Michelin star ambiance.

But don't get us wrong - there's still plenty of ambiance at Ravenette, it's just more of the unstudied, bistro-around-the-corner type than the professionally airbrushed motif you see at some of the big-ticket spots.  And when it comes to food, Ravenette positively soars with an unfussy menu emphasizing seasonal ingredients prepared in small plates fashion.  Don't miss the decadent desserts made in-house, and wash everything down with a bottle from the short but well-edited wine list or a favorite from your own cellar.

All this, and you can catch a flick next door when you're done.  Two thumbs up, way up!

Ravenette * 117 North St., Healdsburg, CA 95448 * (707) 431-1770