New Staples For The Wine Country Kitchen

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hazcarmchard.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

I love discovering new "gourmet" products, particularly those that present ingredients I adore in exciting and different propositions. While some might say New York City is the best place to find envelope-pushing food products, California wine country is no slouch, either... and unlike NYC, most of our products are actually made in this state, too.  Not convinced?  Consider these epicurean wonders of wine country, which have recently seduced their way into my pantry:

artichoketap.jpgArtichoke Truffle Tapenade What it is: Tender chunks of artichoke hearts, the primal allure of white truffle oil, and the pure buttery gorgeousness of extra virgin olive oil combine to ecstatic effect in this jarred spread by Olivier.  It's tangy. It's buttery. It's sexy.  If you can stop eating it straight from the jar, try spreading it on pizza, sandwiches, or as a topping for delicate white fish, crostini, cheeses, or omelets.  Don't even think of rinsing out those last drops of oil in the empty jar--that's what bread is for, people.  What to drink with it: High acid sauvignon blanc, grüner veltliner, or very dry (brut) Champagne--a natural compound in artichokes makes wines taste sweet, so reds tend not to shine.  Where to score it: Olivier Napa Valley stores in St. Helena or Sonoma, where you can also sample it (and many other delectable products) before you buy.

Hazelnut Chardonnay Caramel What it is: The name pretty much says it all with this one: roasted hazelnuts and California's favorite white wine blended into a beautiful caramel sauce with the just the right balance of salt, sugar, butter, and bliss.  Limiting this masterpiece to sundae topping status would be a travesty.  Try over pancakes or French toast in the morning, or swirled into a parfait, or drizzled over cake, or as a decadent dipping sauce for sliced peaches, beignets, cookies, chocolate, or index fingers.  Stir a tablespoon into your hot chocolate for a glimpse of nirvana.  What to drink with it: See preceding sentence.  Wine-wise, try a sherry to amplify the nuttiness, or a white dessert wine made from chardonnay grapes.  Where to score it: Annette's Chocolates, in Napa's Oxbow Market or on First Street in Napa's West End neighborhood.

PastaPenne_001.jpgPasta Caberneti.  What it is: After wine grapes are crushed and have steeped with the juice long enough to impart their glorious color and texture to the future wine, the skins, pits, and other solid bits are removed as pomace--an inedible waste product of winemaking, until now.  The brilliant and enterprising individuals at Marché Noir have transformed cabernet sauvignon leftovers into a nutritious grape flour rich in iron, resveratrol, and omegas, and thence into a dramatic dark pasta, enhanced by a bit of cocoa powder.  I can't wait to try my bag of cabernet penne with a fresh basil pesto, or with a smoky meaty sugo with lots of freshly ground pepper, or maybe just as grownup mac n'cheese with punchy manchego and herbed breadcrumbs.  What to drink with it: What do you think?  Where to score it: Napa Style, in the V Marketplace in Yountville.  It doesn't get more wine country than this, folks.

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