June 2010 Archives

It's Never Too Hot To Eat

gougere blt.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Sunday's Wine Women and Shoes event at HALL St. Helena had the largest, hottest turnout to date... literally.  The temperature felt like it was well into the triple digits, and guests were gulping down the white wine and water like camels at an oasis.  Fortunately, many of the participating food vendors anticipated the fiery June inferno and were dishing out cool, refreshing nibbles to reinvigorate our appetites, help us cool off... and inspire follow-up visits to the kitchens from whence they came.

Several savvy restaurants were offering chilled soup shots to down in between mouthfuls of sauvignon blanc.  The Restaurant at Meadowood offered up elegant shooters of their peak-of-the-season English pea soup with yogurt and hazelnut oil, a beautiful layering of earth, nuts, sweetness, and tang.  Zuzu Restaurant also went green with their avocado gazpacho, a naturally buttery, round and soothing little cold compress for your mouth.  I had to escort myself from the area to avoid stealing all the remaining samples from Betty Teller of the Register, who was womanning Zuzu's table that afternoon.

Yakima Valley Farms

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Farmers Market-10.jpgBy Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau

Nowhere else in the state can you feast on food so close to where it was grown. Love cherries? Eat one in the Yakima Valley and if you toss the pit hard enough, you'll probably hit the farm it came from. You might say that in the Valley, the source of your next meal is just a stone-fruit's throw away. And a trip to a family-owned local farm beats a visit to the grocery store any day.

If you only have eyes for organic, look no further than the Yakima Valley. According to a recent article in Edible Seattle magazine, the region is home to more than 100 organic farms -- the most in the state as of 2008. You'll find many of these organic producers at weekly weekend farmers markets in Ellensburg, Goldendale, Prosser, Sunnyside and Yakima.

Read more for a list of the farms:

Yakima Valley Agriculture

eatlocal.jpgBy Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau

Eating local is a snap when you're surrounded by farms and orchards.

A pineapple just tastes better when it's eaten in Hawaii, and there's nothing more delicious than a pecan freshly plucked from a tree in Texas. The same is true of a peach or a pear or a ripe red tomato when enjoyed in the bountiful Yakima Valley. In this sunny region rich with orchards, farms and vineyards, it's never been easier to eat local.

More than 40 commercial crops are grown in the Yakima Valley of Washington, which enjoys sunshine 300 days a year. Farm-fresh produce is within reach almost year-round, from asparagus in April to apples and potatoes in November. Some summer months are particularly fruitful, like July, which tempts with just-picked apricots, green beans, blueberries, corn, nectarines and squash.

Even in the winter months when the fields are quiet, you can celebrate the region's agricultural industry by exploring its history. Several Yakima Valley museums and attractions are dedicated to farming and food production, such as the Central Washington Agricultural Museum in Union Gap, the American Hop Museum in Toppenish and Darigold Dairy Fair in Sunnyside.

The Next Generation of Napa Restaurant

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bistrosandor.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Napa restaurants seem to open in bursts these days, with multiple places launching more or less simultaneously.  Mid-June 2010 saw the arrival of Bistro Sabor, Carpe Diem, and the as-yet-still-in-soft-opening-mode Bui Bistro, all within three blocks of each other.  Each restaurant brings its own unique cuisine experience to the downtown restaurant scene, but all three share the modern look and casual style that seem to be the new trend in wine country restaurants.

Napa Farmers' Market Newcomers

napa farmers market.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Farmers' market season has begun in Napa, and each week the number of tents and shoppers in the Oxbow Market parking lot seems to grow.  In addition to the perennial favorites, like Rodriguez Farm strawberries, Model Bakery pastries, and the Bolani people's bolanis and sauce, this season I'm drawn to a couple of relative newcomers with fabulous, unique wares on which to feed.

Seasonal Wine Country Produce

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By Deirdre Bourdet

To Pea, Or Not To Pea... Right now in California, that is no question.  Plump English peas are at their peak, sweet, fresh and vibrantly green.  They taste of spring and sunshine, and because of their brief window of perfection, they should be ordered on sight.

Fortunately, wine country restaurants tend to do more with the peas than classic (and aptly named) English "mushy peas."  Many gorgeous and delicious creations await those who aren't afraid of a little green vegetable in their diet.

Go West, Young Gourmand

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uptown-theater.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

According to my friend Chris (@NapaChris on twitter), a New York Times reporter stopped in to his tasting room last week as part of an upcoming piece on Napa's developing  "West End" district.  Pretentious name aside, national coverage is well deserved.  This part of town has some of the best--and best priced--foodie fun Napa has to offer.

I don't know how the Times is planning to define the region, but I'd say the cool stuff is bounded by Seminary Street on the west, 4th Street to the south, Coombs Street to the east, and 1st Street to the north--a small area to be sure, but one that already boasts four note-worthy restaurants, a swanky boutique hotel, a newly renovated historic live music venue, several intensely social art galleries, and two of my favorite tasting rooms in Napa.