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4th of July at Spoonbar Restaurant in Healdsburg, CA

Spoonbar Restaurant ~ 219 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448 ~ 
707.433.7222 ~

Stop by Spoonbar in Healdsburg this 4th of July to celebrate life, liberty and the American picnic! Enjoy the day with family, friends and community while grooving to the sounds of the Easy Leaves Duo. Chef Louis Maldonado, recent 2014 Top Chef Finalist and Last Chance Kitchen Winner, is bringing you a family-style menu fit for the 4th festivities. We've got cocktails to match, too!  (Space is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot - call us or see more details online; $47pp)

The menu offering will be served family-style. Guests will start off with a generous First course consisting of Scallion biscuits + honey, Iceberg chop salad, with avocado, goddess dressing, hen egg, bacon, tomatoes, pickled onions + cucumber, as well as a side of Charred corn with aioli, lime, chili + popcorn.

Bar Manager, Tara Heffernon, has put together a cocktail offering that is reminiscent of days with grass stained jeans and campfires. The House Fireball will warm your belly with Weller 7 Year Bourbon, cinnamon syrup + red jalapeño shrub (learn how to make your own jalapeno shrub here) Looking for something more mellow? Try The Field of Dreams - we built it so you'd come - with New Amsterdam Vodka, midori, honeydew melon, lime + genepy. If you'd really like to take a trip, go for The PB and J. For those of you who preferred Mom to cut the crust, we're sure this will take the edge off. This adult version consists of Mixed Nut Infused Brandy, frangelico, raspberry liqueur + bitters

We'll be opening up ALL of our doors so you can enjoy the summer breeze while you listen to the sounds of The Easy Leaves Duo. They'll be supplying country folk tunes to set the tone. Their Americana sound will be vibrating from guitar and upright bass--trap kit and pedal steel, "the whipped cream  and cherry". Feel free to get up and get down! 

The Second Course will be classic picnic fare with Beef sliders, white bread rolls + flavor marmalade. And what is a picnic without some ribs and chicken? Chef Louis will be sending out Smoked Pork Riblets with BBQ sauce and Fried Chicken Legs, with Aleppo chili. Luckily, you won't have to worry about bringing potato salad, because we're serving it up Spoonbar style with grain mustard, shallots + herbs. To round out the mid-course, there will be Shelling beans cooked in smoked tomato + onion with corn meal crumbs.

Cool things down for the Third Course with fresh chilled berries, assorted popsicles + stone fruit cobbler! Then sit back, relax and we'll take care of the clean-up. Raise a glass in honor of life, liberty and the pursuit of savory fare + specialty cocktail! 

July 4, 2014. 5-10pm. $47pp Space is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot! For more info on Spoonbar, visit our site, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter + Instagram!

Good BBQ Eats in Napa Valley

Some days you just don't want to slave over the barbecue pit or grill for hours perfecting those, succulent, smoky, fall off the bone, perfectly marinated and spiced barbecue ribs. And let's not forget the almighty sauce that makes you want to lick your fingers and the plate! Mmmmm mmmm good! 

So, now that your mouth is watering for some ribs, where are you going to get them in Napa Valley? See a few of the restaurants we've identified as having good barbecue in Napa. (in no particular order)

bountyHunterWineBar_barbecueRibs.jpgBounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ, 975 First Street Napa, CA 94559

While they are known for their famous beer can chicken, but it's the ribs and briskets that keep locals and visitors alike visiting this downtown Napa restaurant on a regular basis. (Okay, and the chicken too....) Order a slab of ribs, or share the Smokin' BBQ Platter with friends. Doing double duty as a wine bar, each menu selection also suggests the perfect pairing. We recommend you indulge in both!

Mustard's Grill, 7399 St Helena Hwy, Napa, CA 94558, (707) 944-2424
If you're looking for some down home comfort food with a twist of Napa sophistication, look no further than chef Cindy Pawlcyn's restaurant "Mustard's Grill" also affectionately known as a "fancy rib joint with way too many wines". Order the Niman Ranch Barbecued Baby Back Ribs - perfectly cooked and tender rack of ribs with a sweet tangy barbecue sauce (ask for extra!) Not to go unnoticed are the sides - apple-golden raisin slaw and cheddar-jalapeno corn stix. Priced at $26.50, indulge to heart's content or take some home!

Tip: Don't forget about Fido. Ask to take the bones home and they'll doggie bag for you! Also, we hear the Mongolian Pork Chop is amazing!!!

Q Restaurant & Bar, 3900 D Bel Aire Plaza. Napa California 94558. 707 224 6600
Whether it's the ribs, pulled pork sandwich or brisket, take your pick and you'll be thanking us we pointed you in the right direction. It's located in a strip mall of sorts, but don't let the front facade fool you. Between the barbecue (if you're in the mood, fried chicken too) and a host of delicious sides (try the mac n cheese and collard greens) you'll wonder why you didn't know about this place before! View menu here.

smoakhouseGrill.jpgSmoakhouse Grill & BBQ,  
1755 Industrial Way, Suite 28 Napa, California 94559

This small outfit located off the main drag in Napa's Industrial Park specializes in classic Southern BBQ. We've got a special place in our heart, as do many others, for their St. Louis ribs and the out of this world "bacon chop" - a huge pork chop with the pork belly still attached.  Only open Wednesday - Saturday (11:30am - 8pm), it's best to get your orders in early before popular items sell out for the day. While they recently started a lunch menu, it is extremely limited, best bets would be their take-out, groups and catering menus. Recent article on them here.

Tip: Sign up up to be on their email list too, they send a newsletter announcing weekly specials!

Zagat Rated - 12 Essential Napa Restaurants

In case you're in a quandary as to what restaurant to eat at in Napa Valley, Zagat has compiled a list of what they feel are the "essential" 12 Napa restaurants that are "unique, only-in-Napa setting, and have an outstanding food and a compelling drink program".  And, not surprisingly, 3 out of the 12 restaurants are located in the wine and food epicurean culinary capital of Napa Valley - Yountville, CA. Read full article here.

See what the WineCountry Staff picked out as their favorites on the list:

2. The Restaurant at Meadowood

3. Bistro Jeanty
, 6510 Washington Street, Yountville CA 94599

bistroJeanty_coqauvin.jpg6. La Toque, 1314 McKinstry Street, Napa CA 94559


FOOD & WINE PAIRING: Sauteed Diver Scallops & Viognier

Submitted by: Lucy's Restaurant & Bar at Bardessono

Recipe: Sautéed Diver Scallops with Celery Root and Citrus
Chef: Executive Chef Victor Scargle, Lucy Restaurant & Bar

Wine Pairing: Storybook Mountain Vineyard, Viognier, Napa Valley, 2012
This is a very lively Viognier: it has all the classic aromatics/ suggestions of white flowers and stone fruits. This particularly wine possesses an impressive lively and crisp acidity.
The texture is rich enough to carry the creamy and fleshy scallops and the acidity here has a perfect affinity with the citrus component that chef Victor uses both in the garnish as well as in the sauce itself.

FOOD & WINE PAIRING: Pan Roasted Duck & Merlot

Recipe: Pan Roasted Duck with Roasted Chestnut-Cranberry Stuffing
Wine Pairing: Sterling Vineyards Reserve Merlot, Napa Valley 09

recipe_SterlingVineyards_duckBreast.jpgIngredients - Roasted Chestnut-Cranberry Stuffing
  • 6 oz. butter
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cups rough chopped roasted and peeled chestnuts (*cooked and peeled chestnuts can be purchased from gourmet food stores and mail order)
  • 4 cups squab or chicken stock
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, roasted in a 300° oven for 20 minutes
  • 4 cups fresh country bread cubes, crust removed and lightly toasted
  • 1 tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs. chopped fresh sage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Butter a 8 x 12 or so baking dish.
  • In a large sauce pot on medium high heat cook the onions and celery in the butter until very tender, stirring frequently to avoid browning.
  • Add chestnuts and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the stock, turn up heat to high and bring to a boil. Shut off.
  • Transfer mixture to a bowl. Fold in bread cubes, herbs and roasted cranberries.
  • Transfer to baking dish. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

FOOD & WINE PAIRING: Spiced Winter Squash & Chardonnay

Stuck for an idea for a side dish to serve for the holidays? Kendall-Jackson has the perfect dish to serve - Spiced Winter Squash. Pair with Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay.

~ Recipe by Chef Tracey Shepos Cenami

  • 3 lbs. winter squash (such as butternut, acorn or kabocha), peeled, seeded and cut into uniform 1-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 Tbsp., plus 1/8 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. pepitas
  • 1½ tsp. pomegranate molasses
  • ½ orange, zested
  • 8 mint leaves, torn

RECIPE: Butternut Squash Soup

Submitted by Korbel Champagne Cellars

Leaves are turning and a chill is in the air. Time to enjoy a heart-warming soup.

Recipe: Butternut Squash Soup
Wine Pairing: Korbel Brut Champagne


Tomatoes - Recipes and Wine Pairings

Whether growing in your garden (lucky you!) or on the menu at your favorite restaurant, it's tomato season! Particularly tasty are heirloom tomatoes which are already in full bloom and in season. See some of our favorite recipes for using this lovely red fruit.

Kendall-Jackson celebrates the tomato season every year with their annual Heirloom Tomato Festival. This year the festival is on September 28, 2013 and will showcase more than 175 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, a chef competition, and of course, tomato-inspired dishes.


New Napa Valley Restaurant: Empire Napa Grand Opening - May 18th

empireNapa_Logo.jpgDowntown Napa continues to add sizzle to it's list of hot restaurants and wine lounges. Joining the ranks of Morimoto Napa, Carpe Diem Wine Bar, 1313 Main, Oenotri, and the Thomas and Fagiani's Bar is Empire Napa having it's grand opening this Saturday, May 18th.

Empire hopes to showcase the trademark Napa charm with a cosmopolitan sophistication as a new contemporary small plates restaurant and lounge. The menu will focus on high quality, fresh  ingredients with a host of influences including Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, French, and nostalgic Americana. Plates range from $5-$20 where an individual can easily enjoy a bite and something to drink in as little as 20 minutes or savor as many as 12 courses over three hours with cocktails and wines.

empireNapa_cocktail.jpgA sneak peek at some of the dishes on the menu:

  • Lemongrass Chicken Wraps, Peanut Sambal and Cilantro
  • Mushrooms, Crispy Sage Polenta, Spinach and Preserved Lemon
  • Lamb Belly, Moroccan BBQ Sauce and Pickled Cabbage
  • Mango Kulfi Popsicle with Peanut Caramel
Signature Cocktails ($12-$16):

  • French 75: Linie Aquavit, Lemon, Chardonnay
  • Daiquiri: Lemon Hart 151, Demerara Sugar, Lime Juice, Orange Bitters
  • Ukiah Sour: Mi Casa Blanco Tequila, Lavender Syrup, Lime, Bergamont Bitters

Perhaps even more exciting to those looking for more nightlife options in Napa is that Empire Napa will will be open Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday 5pm-12am, and Friday/Saturday, 5pm-2am which will showcase some of the best DJs in the Bay Area.

Empire Napa, 1400 First Street, Napa, CA; (707) 687.1234

Serving up Mother's Day Brunch

Serve up a delicious wine country inspired Mother's Day Brunch.

cia_ChiffonCupcakes.jpgThe Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has several recipes ideas perfect for a no-fuss menu for you to prepare that everyone, especially Mom, is sure to enjoy!

Chiffon Cupcakes
Every Mom loves flowers--but she also deserves something a bit sweeter. To help satisfy every deserving mother's sweet tooth, Chef Alison McLoughlin of The Culinary Institute of America has a great suggestion on how to create a beautiful "bouquet" of floral cupcakes for Mom that are sure to make her proud. Click Here for more details and recipe!

  • Fruit Salad with Orange-Blossom Syrup
  • Simple, sweet and the orange-blossom water adds a fragrant touch to this refreshing fruit salad. Click Here for recipe.
  • Raspberry Muffins with Pecan Streusel
  • Surprise Mom with rasberry muffins, a nice and fresh change from the ever popular blueberry muffin. Click Here for the recipe.
  • Asparagus Frittata
  • A frittata is a popular Italian-style flat omelet. The recipe from the CIA showcases fresh, tender asparagus that will make this dish a gourmet delight. Click Here for the recipe.

FOOD & WINE PAIRING: Shortbread Cookies & Champagne

Recipe: Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookie Hearts
Wine Pairing: KORBEL Brut Rose

recipe_Korbel_chocolateDippedShortbreadCookie.jpgSubmitted by: KORBEL Champagne Cellars, Chef Robin Lehnoff

FOOD & WINE PAIRING: Corn Chowder and Champagne

Submitted by Korbel Champagne Cellars

recipe_Korbel_cornChowder.jpgA chilly weekend demands a wonderful, warming Chowder which pairs beautifully with Korbel Blanc de Noirs.

Recipe: Corn, Coconut, and Fennel Chowder
Wine Pairing: KORBEL Blanc de Noirs

FOOD & WINE PAIRING: Chocolate Mousse & Cabernet Sauvignon

By: Chef Justin Wrangler of Kendall Jackson

recipe_KendallJackson_ChocolateMousse.jpgRecipe: Valrhona Cabernet Chocolate Mousse

Wine Pairing: Hawkeye Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

A sweet pairing and personal favorite of the chef!

  • 25 ounces of heavy cream
  • 8 ounces of Valrhona Bittersweet Chocolate 61%
  • 2 ounces of Kendall-Jackson Highland Estates Hawkweye Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon.


In a medium size mixing bowl, whip 16 ounces heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place chocolate in a medium size bowl. In a small pot, add 9 ounces heavy cream and bring to a boil. Once cream has come to a full boil, pour over chocolate and stir until smooth.

Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes. Add the wine and half of the whipped cream. Fold approximately halfway and then add the remaining whipped cream. Fold gently until incorporated.

Spoon the chocolate mousse into a medium size pastry bag. Pipe the mousse into any desired cup or bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

RECIPE: Potato Cake

recipe_PRESS_potatoCake.jpgPRESS Restaurant, St. Helena

  • 2 large russet potatoes, peel and chop into 1-1/2" pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, skin on (for sachet)
  • 6 -12 cloves garlic, skin off (for garlic confit)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt
  • 1 t whole black peppercorns
  • 1 T Parsley, chopped
  • 4-8 T rendered duck fat (or clarified butter)
  • ½ C olive oil
  • Cast iron pan (7-8" round or two 4x6" rectangle)

Holiday Recipes & Pairings from Mumm Napa

Things are sparkling brightly with Mumm Napa this holiday season!

MummNapaSparklingHolidayWineBanner.jpgPlan your complete Christmas Dinner with recipes and wine pairing from Mumm Napa this year. The menu puts a delicious Baked Ham with Honey Apricot Glaze front and center along with several tasty sides like spicy mashed potatoes and minted peas. In general, Mumm Napa recommends their most versatile sparkling wines Brut Prestige and Blanc de Blancs for Christmas. View all of the holiday recipes and pairings HERE.

MummNapaCindyPawlcyn.jpgMumm Napa has also teamed up with noted Napa Valley chef Cindy Pawlcyn (Restaurants: Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, Mustards,) to provide foodies and wine lovers even more festive pairings. Dare to inspire guests with a Swordfish Involtini, or a Chocolate-Hazelnut Truffle Tart. Of course, there are more recipes online which also include recommended wine pairings. Click here to view.

If all of this was not enough to whet your palate, ENTER TO WIN an exclusive Napa Valley Weekend getaway that includes airfare for you and a guest, 2 night accommodations, $1000 in spending money and a special pairing dinner hosted with Chef Cindy Pawlcyn.

Visiting Napa Valley or Sonoma? Stop in for a wine tasting visit at Mumm Napa's Tasting Room. Not only do they boast some fabulous sparkling wines, you can also view the breathtaking photography of famous photographer Ansel Adams at Mumm Napa's fine art photography gallery.

Mumm Napa
8445 Silverado Trail
Rutherford, CA 94573
(800) 686.6272

Thanksgiving Dinner in Sonoma

2012 Update!

turkeyDinner.jpgRestaurants That Will Be Open

It's not too late to have a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner with family and friends where you can leave the dishes and clean up to someone else. See below for which restaurants in Sonoma this year will be open to serve you a grand Thanksgiving feast.

CLICK HERE for a list of all the Sonoma wineries that will be open Thanksgiving Day as well.

Depot Hotel
Bring your family and friends and join Chefs Antonio and Michael Ghilarducci for Thanksgiving Dinner. Open for dinner 12 noon through 7pm with seatings every half hour. Call for reservations if you have a party of 6 or more. MORE DETAILS

Inn at the Tides - Bay View Restaurant
Join The Bay View Restaurant for a festive Thanksgiving Day feast.  Entree choices include traditional Roasted Turkey (children under 12, half price), Lobster Fettuccine, Poached Salmon, Pork Tenderloin, Rack of Lamb and Filet Mignon.  Full menu available on our website. Reservations strongly suggested. MORE DETAILS

Wine & Food Pairings: Sauvignon Blanc & Wild Salmon

recipe_ClifFamily_salmon.jpgBy Master Chef, Anna Callway of Clif Family Winery

It's wild salmon season! Salmon is my favorite fish - it's easy to prepare, good for you and lends itself to many wonderful preparations. I have tried cooking salmon many different ways, but the recipe below is an all-time favorite. Pair this meal with Clif Family Winery 2010 Rte Blanc Sauvignon Blanc.

This method yields a melt in your mouth texture and it is a medium rare finish ( slightly translucent in the center).

KORBEL Sorbet Punch

Submitted by Korbel Champagne Cellars

When you get together with friends, toast the summer and celebrate with KORBEL Sorbet Punch!


KORBEL Long Drive Cocktail

recipe_Korbel_LongDriveCocktail.jpgSubmitted by Korbel Champagne Cellars

Don't forget Father's Day is June 17th; celebrate with Dad by making him a KORBEL Long Drive Cocktail!

  • 3 oz. KORBEL Brut or Extra Dry Champagne
  • 2 oz. lemonade
  • 1 oz. blue curacao
In a tall glass, pour KORBEL Brut or Extra Dry. Add lemonade, blue curacao and ice.

Planning a visit to Sonoma County? Spend the day at Korbel Champagne Cellars...taste our delightful California champagnes, tour our historic winery and gardens, and enjoy a delicious lunch at our gourmet Delicatessen. Complimentary tours and tastings daily.

Spice Up Your Summer Nights!

Ramekins Culinary School in Sonoma
From butchery to Mexican tamales, plan a culinary getaway to Sonoma Wine Country and spend your summer evenings learning new tricks, tips, and culinary techniques. With the addition of TASTE, a complimentary wine tasting event complete with tasty bites and good company, guests are invited to relax, unwind, and enjoy the warm nights.

Summer Tamales with Agustín Gaytá
June 1, 6:30-9:30p.m., $100

Using the techniques and ingredients of his childhood, Chef Gaytá demonstrates how to prepare Mexico's oldest dish, the tamale. Students are encouraged to master the basics, then add their own concepts and experiment with a variety of flavors. From savory to succulent, dishes include Tamales de Mariscos (Shrimp and Scallops with Butternut Squash Wrapped in Swiss Chard and Served with Habañero Salsa) and Tameles Dulces de Coco (Sweet Coconut with Vanilla Cream Sauce). Register for Class!

French Blue Restaurant in St. Helena, CA Opens Today

St. Helena, CA - French Blue, a beautiful and warm neighborhood restaurant located in the heart of Napa Valley from renowned architect Howard Backen, his wife interior designer Lori Backen and vintner Leslie Rudd (also owner of PRESS restaurant), opened its doors today.

Set in the old Vanderbilt building on the north end of downtown St. Helena, the restaurant's name comes from the blue doors, which graced its entrance for over 50 years. The space features a large open kitchen with a wood burning oven and grill, two fireplaces, a communal table in the center and outdoor seating. The menu, from Executive Chef Philip Wang, features rustic, wood-fired Napa cooking, seasonally inspired from the local gardens of Rudd Farms, located on Mt. Vedeer and at Edge Hill Vineyards - the best ingredients, simply prepared. The food is matched by a carefully edited selection of Northern California wines and handcrafted cocktails. View menus online!
French Blue currently serves dinner only, with opening hours from 5pm - 11pm, seven days a week. Beginning June 4th, the all-day restaurant will also offer lunch, with breakfast to follow on June 13th. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not accepted.

Sonoma's Kenwood Inn and Spa Adds a Celebrity Connection to the Kitchen

Steven Snook, Executive Chef

wcPersonality_KenwoodSpa_snook1.jpgAfter six years in the Michelin Star-rated kitchens of the esteemed, charismatic and outspoken British chef Gordon Ramsay, Steven Snook has traded in the big city, pressure cooker life working in such critically acclaimed, high profile restaurants for the Executive Chef position at the much slower-paced, award-winning, guests-only Restaurant at the Kenwood Inn and Spa. Opened in 1989 as a luxury hideaway in Sonoma's Valley of the Moon, the Kenwood Inn and Spa offers 29 Mediterranean-styled guest rooms flanked by courtyards, three saline pools, and vineyard views. The Spa at Kenwood features cutting edge, results-oriented skincare treatments and body treatments utilizing vinotherapy -engaging the exceptional rejuvenating and protective powers of the grape. 

What Chef Snook brings with him from those priceless years under such a talented and exacting chef is expertly sharpened culinary chops, exceedingly high standards and a profound respect and connection to the bounty provided by local artisan food growers and producers.

During his tenure as Sous Chef at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, both in London, Chef Snook stood out to Chef Ramsay's team for his impeccable standards and discriminating palate, which allowed him some very interesting experiences not afforded to most chefs.

PRESS - Largest Restaurant Collection of Napa Valley Wines Debuts

pressRestaurant_NewWineCellar.jpgSt. Helena, CA - PRESS Restaurant, one of Napa Valley's most acclaimed fine dining experiences, celebrates the debut of its newly constructed wine cellar with over 25 of the valley's pioneering vintners and the best of their older vintages. The cellar, designed by renowned architect Howard Backen, can house up to 10,000 bottles and is stocked with a groundbreaking collection of rare and older wines exclusively from Napa Valley. PRESS sommeliers Kelli White and Scott Brenner have been scouring the valley to find the best wines from as far back as the early 1960s, and are proud to announce that the restaurant now has the largest all-Napa collection of wines in the country.
Joining PRESS and Rudd winery owner Leslie Rudd for the private opening event, which celebrates the new space and collection, are several of Napa's most legendary vintners. These vintners include Peter Mondavi Sr., Robin Lail, Bill Phelps, Paul Draper, Warren Winiarski, Boots Brounstein, Kathleen Heitz, Carl Doumani, David Ramey, and John Kongsgaard among others.
In addition to showcasing the new cellar, PRESS will also debut an interactive wine list hosted on iPads. Uncorked Apps has developed custom second generation iPad software to allow PRESS customers to engage more easily with the extensive wine list, and for improved inventory management. The restaurant will soon offer an iPad for every table - 30 in total - with the ability to sort the wine list by price, varietal, and winery.

Epicurean Winter in Healdsburg: Culinary Mecca

healdsburgChamber_olives.jpgHealdsburg is literally a food-lover's paradise; a culinary mecca where chefs have access to fresh, local produce, sustainable seafood, and organic meats throughout the year. The town is home to some of the country's most celebrated restaurants, including two Michelin Star recipient Cyrus, Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen, and Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar, which uses produce and eggs from their own farm.

Now through March, "Epicurean Winter" offers an array of culinary festivals, special dinners, wine tastings and specifically geared toward the epicurean. There's something for every food and wine lover who wants to enjoy a relaxing, indulgent escape that's still close to home.

Thanksgiving in Napa Valley

2012 Update - Where to go for Dinner in Napa Valley!
CLICK HERE to see what Napa Valley wineries will be open as well.

turkeyNsides.jpgGrill at Silverado Resort & Spa
Enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day Buffet in the resort's elegant Grand Ballroom, featuring an array of traditional holiday dishes such as Butternut Squash Soup; Marshall Farm Honey Brined Petaluma Turkey Breast; Herb Roasted Prime Rib; Lock Duarte Salmon; Roasted Sweet Potato Gratin; and Wild Mushroom Stuffing. MORE DETAILS

Meadwood Napa Valley
Sit down to an elegant feast prepared at Meadowood Napa Valley featuring two preparations of Free Range Turkey (Brined & Roaste Breast, Crisp Skin Leg Confit), Duo of Housemade Bread Stuffing (Chestnut and Sage, Italian Sausage), several other sides and a decadent dessert buffet that include favorites pumpkin pie, chocolate cream pie, apple crumble, and an assortment of other treats. First seating is at 12pm. MORE DETAILS.

Napa Valley Wine Train
Thanksgiving on the Napa Valley Wine Train is a traditional Thanksgiving feast in a non-traditional (yet extremely memorable) atmosphere. We'll have all of the customary Thanksgiving fixings, and of course, a perfectly cooked turkey. Many guests have made Thanksgiving on the wine train their family tradition, returning year after year. Lunch Train is already sold out! So make sure to call and make reservations for the Dinner Train.

Siena Restaurant at the Meritage Resort
Keep calm and gobble on this Thanksgiving at The Meritage Resort. Leave the cooking to our award-winning restaurant and enjoy this time of thanks with your family and friends.
Savor a prefixed menu by our Executive Chef Michael Collins that includes turkey carving at your table, choice of an appetizer, a dessert bar, and much more. Turkey leftovers will even be wrapped to take home for a turkey sandwich the next day! MORE DETAILS

Best Food & Wine Destinations

food_wine.jpegTraveler's Choice Awards 2011 by Trip Advisor

The votes are in and Napa, California was chosen as the #2 travel destination for food and wine by travelers on Trip Advisor in 2011. Are we really surprised? Not really. In fact, what's surprising is that Napa was not chosen as #1!

Trip Advisor sums it up well when it says "Everyone knows Napa as a wine destination, and it lives up to the hype. This is oenophile heaven, and you could spend days going from tasting room to tasting room. There's a flourishing restaurant scene, too, featuring everything from Michelin-starred standouts to tiny local bistros."

CLICK HERE to read the full article and see other destinations that topped the list for 2011.

Host a Dinner Party

Dinner Party Tips from an Ambassador and Vintner

hallWinesCab2008.jpgVintner of HALL Wines, Ambassador Kathryn Hall former liaison to Austria from 1997 to 2001, is frequently called upon to host gatherings at her winery and wine dinners across the country.  A few small details put her special touch on a dinner and create memorable evenings for her guests. 

1.    Show your colors. Find china and fun linens with accents in your favorite colors.  Adding candles and fresh flowers will inspire the senses and set the tone for the evening with a very personal touch. 

2.    Gauge the temperature. You want everyone to be comfortable, especially if you are outdoors.  Invest in wraps for your guests.  Even if the wraps don't get used, the gesture is always appreciated.  Have them handy in a basket that can also be used to collect them at the end of the evening.    

3.    The correct glasses for each wine. Set your table with the appropriate wine glasses for each course.  The look alone is a great "wow" when your guests arrive and it allows guests to discuss their favorites throughout the evening.  Never clear any of the wine glasses before dinner is over.

4.    You don't have to wait for everyone
.  At larger gatherings, feel free to start after four to six guests have been served.  The hosts should be served last.  

5.    Be ready to talk. Make a point to bring everyone into a conversation.  Simply ask your guests more about themselves. If you can remember some of the details, it can make a big difference in your relationship with them.

Heirloom Tomato Soup

Submitted by: Chef Brandon Sharp of Solbar - Solage Calistoga

recipe_Solbar_HeirloomTomatoSoup.jpgChef's Note:
We've gone vegan with several of our seasonal soups--tomato, corn, carrot--and ended up with a tomato soup that tastes more like tomato than tomatoes do. (Make up the difference with a grilled cheese).


  • 1 Yellow Onion, medium dice
  • 1/4C Blended Olive Oil
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Basil, tied with 4 sprigs Thyme and
  • 4 of Marjoram
  • 2 Clove Garlic, micro-planed
  • 5 Overripe Heirloom Tomatoes, cored and cut in large chunks
  • 1/2 T Salt
  • 1 t Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
In a large sauce pot, sweat onions with herbs in oil over medium low heat until tender. Stir in garlic and quickly add tomatoes and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10 -15 minutes or until tomatoes are broken down. Drizzle in balsamic vinegar, remove herbs and blend soup, pouring in extra virgin olive oil.

Makes 6 portions.

See MORE RECIPES by Chef Brandon Sharp.


Submitted by Chandon

recipe_Grougeres_Chandon.jpgThese fluffy-light cheese puffs are dangerously easy to eat. A perfect finger food for entertaining, they could also be called cheese bubbles, because their interiors are filled with air. Not surprisingly, they pair quite well with their bubble-filled liquid counterpart--sparkling wine.

  • 1/2 cup/115 g unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup/130 g all-purpose/plain flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups/170 g shredded Gruyère cheese*
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas 6

*Gruyère cheese, made in the French and Swiss Alps, is a semi-hard, aged cheese with a nutty quality. In the absence of Gruyère, other semi-hard cheeses such as Cantal, Asiago, or white Cheddar would make delectable substitutes.

Prawn and Bacon Brochetas

Submitted by Chandon

chandonPrawnsBacon.jpgThe next party you throw with friends will be a breeze. Chandon has several quick and easy to make appetizers that are sure to make your next shin dig a hit!

This pairing of prawns and bacon is extremely popular in tapas bars and ideal for an intimate gathering of friends. Serves 12


  • 5 oz thinly sliced bacon
  • 24 medium to large uncooked, headless prawns, peeled
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lemons, quartered


Cut the bacon into pieces that will wrap around the prawns completely. Place the wrapped prawns flat on a board and skewer them securely through the thickest part of the tail. Season with pepper and drizzle with oil.

On a griddle or barbecue, cook the brochetas for 2-3 minutes per side, until the bacon is crisp. You may also roast the brochetas in the oven at 425°F on an oiled baking tray for 8-10 minutes. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve immediately.

Recommended Wine Pairings

Mustard Chicken and 2009 Cuvaison Carneros Chardonnay

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mustardchicken.jpgWhat to make for dinner tonight? Bring a taste of Napa Valley home with Cuvaison's refreshing estate grown 2009 Carneros Chardonnay - expertly paired with this quick and easy Mustard Chicken recipe.

CLICK HERE for recipe!

Wine Country Gazpacho

korbelRecipe_gazpacho.jpgSubmitted by Chef Robin Lehnhoff-McCray
Korbel Champagne Cellars

Looking for a quick, easy, and refreshing meal to serve this summer season? Try our Wine Country Gazpacho paired with our Korbel Natural Champagne.


  • 3 cups Fresh Summer Tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 cups canned Italian Pear Tomatoes
  • 2 cups Cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup Red Onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup Fresh Garlic, chopped
  • 2 Jalapenos, seeded and minced*
  • 3 cups Tomato Juice
  • ½ cup Cilantro, chopped
  • ½ cup Parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup Aged Red Wine Vinegar
  • ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Champagne Punch

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korbel-champagne-punch.jpgSubmitted by Korbel Champagne Cellars

The summer is fast approaching and tis the season for BBQ's and backyard get togethers. Korbel Champagne Punch is the perfect refreshing drink that all your guests will love.

  • 1 (10 oz.) package frozen sliced strawberries in syrup, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups apricot or peach nectar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 (750ml) bottles KORBEL Champagne, chilled
  • 1 pint Häagen-Dazs® Raspberry or Strawberry Sorbet
  • Fresh strawberries, sliced, if desired
  • Fresh mint leaves, if desired

In a blender or food processor with metal blade, place thawed strawberries and syrup; blend until smooth. Pour strawberry purée into a large pitcher. Add apricot nectar, lemon juice and honey; stir to mix. Refrigerate until serving time.

To serve, pour mixture into a large punch bowl. Stir in your favorite KORBEL Champagne. (Korbel Recommendations: Non Vintage Blanc De Noir, Brut Rose or Brut) Gently drop small scoops of Häagen-Dazs sorbet into punch. Garnish with sliced strawberries and mint, if desired.

Sorbet scoops can be made ahead of time. Place scoops on wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Place in freezer until ready to serve.

Fresh Strawberry Salad

korbel_Recipe_StrawberriesSalad.jpgSubmitted by Chef Lehnhoff-McCray
Korbel Champagne Cellars

Spring is here and summer is fast approaching! This delightful fruit salad is perfect for a warm summer day with a refreshing glass of our Korbel Sec.

  • 2 pints fresh strawberries, cut in half
  • 2 oz dried blueberries
  • 1 cup Korbel Sec
  • 2 oranges, zested and juiced
  • 2 T chopped fresh mint
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese or plain Greek yogurt (optional)
Place the blueberries in a small saucepan and add the Korbel Sec. Bring to a boil and then turn off. Let the berries soak up the champagne until cool. Drain the berries and set aside.

Place the strawberries and blueberries in a bowl. Add the orange zest, juice and the fresh mint. Toss gently and chill until ready to serve.

Top with Greek yogurt or mascarpone cheese if desired.

Serves 4

Cook for Your Mom!

bouchon.jpgMother's Day is coming up and we think it's high time they got a break and are relieved from duty over the hot oven stove. Below are a host of recipes from our gathered from our Food Blog that would make wonderful brunch and dessert entrees for the special occasion.

Start things off with a Perfect Mimosa! Quick, simple and easy. While Mom is sipping and relaxing, put the final touches on any or all of the following:

What's for Breakfast?
Meyer Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
Rabanda Brazillian Style French Toast
Garden Vegetable Frittata
Bacon and Egg Salad
Banana Hazelnut Pancakes
Mexican Souffle

Of course, you may want to treat your Mom to Dessert first! We are sure she won't mind . . .
Planning something more elaborate for dinner or lunch? See our full list of recipes HERE!

Delta Asparagus with Gribiche

asparagus.jpgBrandon Sharp, Solbar, Solage Calistoga

"Asparagus season is to California eaters what Opening Day is to baseball fans.  Add smoked pork, grilled chicken, or blackened fish to this one for a meal." - Chef Brandon Sharp, Solbar

(four servings)

  • 2 bu jumbo asparagus
  • 1/3 C Dijon mustard
  • 2 hardboiled eggs, chilled and roughly chopped
  • 2 T capers
  • 6 cornichons, chopped
  • 1 t fresh chopped tarragon
  • 2 t fresh chopped parsley
  • 2/3 C olive oil

Scenes For Seduction: Best Bets for Romantic Winter Dining

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Wine country's dramatic beauty and sensual delights make it an ideal destination for romance at any time of year, but I tend to think winter is one of its finest seasons.  Chilly temperatures seem to amplify our enjoyment of food and wine, and also encourage the wintry inclination to cuddle up closer with our person of choice (plus, there's also that holiday in the middle of February that tends to prompt some romantic gestures).  Here are some suggestions for dining à deux in wine country when the barometer runs low, but passions run high.

Cozy Up By the Fire. Everyone knows one of the best ways to fan the flames between you is to cozy up by a fireplace.Start the evening off right (or just make a night of it) in the lounge at Cuvée in Napa, which offers great happy hour discounts on drinks and globally inspired appetizers during the week.The fireside tables at Brix tucked away in a discreet corner of the restaurant behind the bar, also make a great place for shameless flirting over dinner.   In Sonoma County, the low lighting, plush textures, and dramatic stone fireplace of John Ash's front lounge provide the perfect ambience to make your move.

Up & Away Ballooning Quiche

UpAwayQuice.JPGChef: Mike and Patty Kijak of Up & Away Ballooning

We serve this homemade quiche to our riders after each flight. Accompanied with chocolate dipped strawberries, local cheeses,  fresh fruit, low calorie coffee cake (just kidding about the low cal. part), Champagne, juice etc.

  • Hand made pie shell or pre-made
  • One and half cups grated Swiss cheese
  • One and half cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • Grated onion
  • salt/pepper
  • nutmeg
  • other ingredients at cook's discretion

Restaurant Month in California

All around California, restaurants are celebrating the month of January with fabulous dining specials and savings for lunch and/or dinner. Splurge, savor, and save is the name of the game. See if your favorite restaurant or one you always wanted to try is on the list in the regions below.

Gold Country. You may not find gold, but with savings on food like these, you might as well have! Restaurant Week in Gold Country is January 32-30 with a grand finale on January 30th where the area's finest chefs will offer a unique opportunity to be an El Dorado Epicurean in a countywide progressive dinner. More Details

Monterey County. Catch some fresh seafood in Monterey during Restaurant Month. Participating restaurants are offering prix fixe dinner menus for $20.11 all month long. More Details.

Napa Valley - see our Food Writer's top restaurant picks for deals and steals. Or see the full list of Napa Valley restaurants and their specials here.

Santa Barbara Wine Country
  • Santa Barbara -Dubbed "Film Feast", the prix fixe restaurant program coincides with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival all happening January 27-Feb 6, 2011. Film goers and foodies are invited to choose from "Short" (two-course), "Feature" (three-course) and "Epic" (four-course) length seasonal menus at participating restaurants. MORE DETAILS.
  • Santa Ynez Valley - The foodie fun begins January 23rd and ends January 29th. It's this region's first time participating in Restaurant Month and they will be featuring special 3-course tasting menus for $20.11. A list of participating restaurants is listed, but you will need to contact restaurants directly for specific days, dining hours and to make reservations. MORE DETAILS.

Potato Gratin

potatogratin.jpgBy: Executive Chef Christopher Ludwick, Grapevine Catering Company

Submitted by Flora Springs Winery

  • 1 # Yukon Gold Potatoes (peeled)
  • ½ ea yellow onion (julienned)
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Fresh herbs (chopped)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Butternut Squash Fritters

fritters.jpgSubmitted by Flora Springs Winery
Executive Chef Christopher Ludwick, Grapevine Catering Company

  • 2 cups Butternut Squash (grated)
  • 1 ea red onion (chopped)
  • 1 ea red pepper (chopped)
  • 1 ea carrot (grated)
  • ½ bu Italian Parsley (chopped)
  • 1 ea egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2T sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Panko

Wake Up Call


Where to enjoy the best breakfasts in Wine Country.

by Jill Silverman Hough

There's nothing like waking up in Wine Country, with the promise of a perfect day ahead. So, why not indulge in an amazing breakfast? Whether you like to ease into the day with coffee and a fresh-baked scone, or you're up for a three-course brunch, here are the spots to start your day off right.

Cantinetta Piero
The venue: A hotel restaurant, but the hotel feels like a bit of Tuscany.
The food: The two-course prix fixe breakfast starts with fresh-squeezed orange juice, coffee, a small pastry, and yogurt with fruit and house-made granola. Then, it moves to your choice of three egg dishes. Go for the side of artisan-smoked bacon, and linger over every bite.
The prices: $18 (30 percent off for locals).
The details: Breakfast Mon.-Sun. 7:30-10 a.m. 6774 Washington St., Yountville, (707) 299-5015,

The venue: Michelin star-rated hotel restaurant, with a hip yet casual vibe.
The food: The on-premise garden influences the menu, and everything is expertly prepared. Lemon ricotta pancakes are crisp around the edges but light inside, thanks to whipped egg whites. Beef for the hash is house corned. Juices aren't just fresh squeezed, they're squeezed to order. And coffee comes in a personal French press.
The prices (entrées): $11-$17.
The details: Breakfast Mon.-Sun. 7-11 a.m., brunch Sun. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. 755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, (707) 226-0800,

Read More

Filet Mignon with Mushrooms and Sauce Pinot Noir

filet mignon 001_crop.jpgBacon wrapped Filet Mignon married with garlic, mushroom, rosemary and's an entree sure to please!  Served with a favorite side dish and a MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir, it is perfect for a special occasion dinner.

  • 2 (8-ounce) filet mignon steaks
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 bacon strips
  • 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. Assorted mushrooms such as shitake, crimini and chanterelle, stemmed and halved
  • 1 TBS finely chopped garlic
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cups Pinot Noir (MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard or Carneros)
  • 2 TBS prepared demi-glace (find recipe online at or purchase online, "Demi-Glace Gold" at )
  • 2 TBS unsalted butter

Mini Crab Cake Appetizers

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mini-crab-cakes_large.jpgSubmitted by Domain Chandon

Here is a true American classic that just begs to be paired with a top-quality California sparkling wine. Whether you choose blue crab from the Chesapeake Bay or Dungeness crab from the Pacific Northwest, these miniature cakes will melt in your mouth. For the sake of convenience, you can do the prep work a day in advance and pop the baking pans in the oven while your guests are enjoying their first glass of wine.

Preparation time: 1 hour and 15 minutes


  • 8 oz cream cheese, brought to room temperature
  • ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange peel
  • ½ tsp finely grated lemon peel
  • 4 tsp plus 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives, divided
  • ¼ tsp coarse kosher salt
  • Large pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 6 oz fresh lump crabmeat, picked over, patted dry and coarsely shredded
  • 1 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)*
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
  • Fresh chives, cut into pieces

Kitchen equipment: Electric mixer, 2 mini muffin pans

Pot Roast

pot_roast.jpgSubmitted by Flora Springs Winery

  • 4# boneless chuck roast
  • 1cup flour
  • Bay leaf
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 c chicken or beef stock or enough to cover (heated)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 ea carrots chopped
  • 1 ea onion chopped
  • 2 ea parsnips chopped

Season chuck roast with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Brown roast on all sides in a
medium sauté pan. Place roast and remaining ingredients into a large casserole pan and cover with foil.

Place into a 425 degree oven. Cook covered for about 4 hours or until tender.  Add more chicken or beef stock, if needed during cooking.

Holiday Entertaining

Holiday wine and food pairing can be tough. Figuring out which wines to pair with such a wide assortment of foods is a challenge for even the most experienced chef and the thought of entertaining on top of everything makes is stressful! Here are a few guidelines to follow to ensure your food and wine pairings are easy and fun:

Main Dish
For the white wine lover, a soft Chardonnay is a great accompaniment to poultry and an assortment of sides. Even a Riesling or Pinot Grigio could work. The minerality and apple-citrus notes common to Pinot Grigio match well with rich holiday foods. Also, while many assume white wine is the ideal poultry pairing, Pinot Noir's fruity character and lack of tannins are ideal for serving with turkey. It's vibrant and fruity character is sure to please red wine drinkers too.

If you end up serving an elegant roast meat at your holiday dinner, select a bolder red wine, like a Meritage, to match the stronger flavors of the meat.

Side Dishes
Any of these earlier wine pairing suggestions will also work well with the myriad of rich side dishes that often accompany the main course. To complement the spices and flavors try a delightful Syrah-Malbec. This lighter red, with its own notes of spices and earthiness, will stand up well to any dish, from sweet potato mash to creamed pearl onions.

20 Wines for $20 Thursdays

Buying a bottle of wine at dinner doesn't have to be expensive. Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, CA is offering patrons of the restaurant a great deal on Thursdays. The new promotion is "20 wines for $20" and lasts through the March 2011.

Sommelier Drew Munro has priced 20 wines at a tremendous value for you to enjoy every Thursday evening. In addition, two wines are available by the glass for $5 each.

Take advantage of this steal of a deal. Make reservations online. See restaurant hours below:
Lunch: Fri. - Sun. 12:00pm to 2:30pm
Dinner: Sun. - Thurs. 5:30pm to 9:30pm and Fri. - Sat. 5:30pm to 10:00pm

*Remember - 20 Different bottles of wine all for only $20 each*

CLICK HERE for dining review.

Change Is Afoot At the Oxbow Public Market

oxbowmarketsign.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The Oxbow Market is one of my favorite destinations in the Napa Valley.  It has everything a foodie could want in one convenient, comfortable, and very social marketplace.  As a local, it's rare that I stop in without spotting at least one person I know.  With the fantastic new changes in the Main Hall this autumn, the Oxbow's cult following is about to get a lot bigger.  

One of the biggest issues for people visiting the Oxbow in the evening was the early shuttering of the stores, starting around 7pm.  Starting November 17th, the Oxbow will be open every night until at least 9pm, eliminating the need to eat an early bird supper or leave the building.  "Oxbow at Nite!" aims to make the market an anytime, any day kind of scene: it's not just for Tuesdays anymore.

Bourbon-Glazed Roast Turkey

turkey_detail.jpgSubmitted by Sterling Vineyards

Paired with Sterling Vineyards Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 

Serves 18

  • 15 pound whole turkey, fresh or frozen (thawed)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large tart apple, quartered
  • 1 cup peach preserves
  • 3 Tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons Angostura bitters
  • butter as needed
  • spiced pickled peaches for garnish, drained

Salmon Roasted on Cedar Plank

KV_Salmon_cedar.jpgExecutive Chef Robin Lehnhoff-McCray, Kenwood Vineyards, invites you to try this delicious Salmon recipe paired with Kenwood Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

World Series Wines

What to Quaff With What to Eat While Tuning In
By Courtney Cochran

AT&T Park - home to SF's National-League-topping Giants - is renowned for its fancy game fare (Gilroy garlic fries, anyone?), though beer usually trumps wine as game-viewing-beverage-of-choice at the LEED-certified park.  Still, we know that vinous-inclined ball fans watching from home will no doubt reach for the corkscrew come this evening's World Series kickoff game.  Accordingly, we've put together a few suggested food and wine pairings for those of you who prefer the likes of Zin while taking in our team's next win.

Where would a true ball fan be without this classic game viewing staple?  When tucking into 'nuts, there's nothing more fitting with which to pair them than a crisp sparkling wine.  Why? Its acidity will deftly offset all the salt in this treat, while its bubbly profile and creamy mousse recall beer (though we know bubbly is better!).

*Make 'em gourmet: Upgrade your traditional basic nut to fancy Virginia versions.

Hot Dogs
We can't imagine a ball game without 'dogs.  Accordingly, uncork a fruity, medium-bodied red like Pinot Noir or Cru Beaujolais (for the latter, we like versions from Morgon and Brouilly) when tucking into this meaty treat.  These wines' mellow tannins will stand up to dogs' chewy texture, while their fruity flavor profiles make great foils to the savory taste of this choice game fare.

*Make 'em gourmet: Opt for Polish sausage franks for a richer, beefier taste.

Hungarian Goulahahahahahahash

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goulash.jpgRecipe submitted by Liz Vezer of Vezer Family Vineyard

Visit picturesque Suisun Valley, Napa Valley's neighbor by 6 miles! Cooking Class, Dinner & Tasting with Liz for a special occasion reservation at the Vezer Family Estate ... add an escorted ATV Vineyard tour for the perfect day. Open year-round No Appointment for Mankas Corner or Blue Victorian Tasting Rooms. No Fee Wine Club.

  • 1 Bottle Vezer Family Vineyard 2006 Zinfandel - I personally use 1/2 to drink while cooking & 1/2 to cook in the recipe
  • 4-5lbs lean stew meat - cut into chunks so it absorbs the wine better
  • 1 large onion chopped fine
  • 10-12 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 lbs. Potatoes
  • 2 lbs Carrots
  • 10-12 TBS Hungarian Paprika
  • 3 large containers of beef stock
  • 1/4-1/2Cup Olive Oil (you decide how 'virginal')
  • 2-3 Turkish Bay leaves
  • 2 TBS Sea Salt
Serves approximately 1 tribe or 8 people.

Where to Watch the World Series

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By Deirdre Bourdet

giantsBaseball.jpgNAPA VALLEY, CA - The Giants are in the World Series! Join fellow fan-atics at these wine country spots to cheer on San Francisco's own orange and black.

Calistoga Inn & Brewery. Beer and baseball are a classic pairing, and this downtown Calistoga bar/restaurant/inn also boasts an award-winning microbrewery, which sells 100% of its beers on the premises. Crispy calamari and buffalo wings rub shoulders with steamed mussels, oysters, shrimp cocktail and Dungeness crab cakes on the appetizer menu, and bring a taste of the bay to northern Napa Valley.

With a pint of local brew and bowl full of seafood, you will be more than set for game time. 1250 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga.

Bourbon Pepper Tenderloin

Submitted by Gourmet Retreats at Casa Lana B&B
10 Servings

  • 3 pounds Beef Tenderloin, trussed
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon achiote powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil, for searing

Grab a Slice, Pour the Wine & Celebrate National Pizza Month

Submitted by Kenwood Vineyards

October is National Pizza Month, though Americans don't need a special month to indulge in this lunch and dinnertime favorite. An astonishing 93% of Americans eat pizza at least once a month, and every man, woman and child in the country eats an average of 46 slices of pizza per year. Pizza and a glass of wine are a natural pairing, yet few food and wine matchmakers have ever tried this tasty combination - pizza and Sauvignon Blanc.

Pairing pizza and Sauvignon Blanc makes perfect, palate-pleasing sense. While toppings can range from almost nothing to almost everything, tomato sauce and cheese lie at the heart of pizza's scrumptious flavors, and Sauvignon Blanc complements both. Sauvignon Blanc's forward fruit/herb character enhances the herb-infused flavors of tomato sauce, while its crisp acidity serves as a foil to the richness of the cheese.

Calistoga's Bed & Breakfast Morning Treasures

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brannanCottageRecipe.jpgWhy is staying in a bed and breakfast such a treat?? Two words-"The FOOD!". Calistoga is brimming with bed and breakfasts with wonderful, dedicated chefs all showcasing their delectable goodies Click below for these recipes and more....or better yet, just book a room!

Brannan Cottage Inn

Calistoga Wine Way Inn and Craftsman Inn

Chateau de Vie

The Chanric Inn

If you're not a culinary genius in the kitchen or would simply like someone else to be the chef for once,  like we a room!  Right now Calistoga is full of "Sweet Lodging Deals" making this a perfect time to book a fall or winter getaway, relax and enjoy life's little pleasures.  

Bounty Hunter Beer Can Chicken

BeerCanChickenHiRez.jpgSubmitted by Chef Will Wright, Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ

You might have heard about it from a local or seen it on television, now you can make and taste it for yourself! A guest favorite at our Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ haunt in Downtown Napa, it's not the only draw - sidle up to the bar, or sit on an actual saddle and experience over 40 wines by-the-glass and the best BBQ around.  975 First St., Napa CA

Serves 4


  • 4 lb. whole chicken
  • 1 can of Tecate beer
  • 1 lime, cut in half

  • 5 lb. pre-mixed Cajun spice
  • 1 C fennel seed
  • 1 C coriander seed
  • 1 C white sesame seeds
  • ½ C dried thyme
  • ½ C dried oregano
  • ½ C smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. Coleman's dry mustard powder
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
And a few of our own secret spices.  Feel free to add any of your own favorites!
This will make enough spice rub for twelve chickens - store what you don't use in an air-tight container for up to one month in a cool dry place.

Fall Recipes

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PumpkinCurrySoupl.jpgIt's sad to see the summer go, but Fall beckons with a swirl of autumn leaves and delicious comfort foods. Pair your favorite dishes with wine, and you're all set for a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon curled up by the fire or reading a book in your special chair.  See the round up of recipes we found!

Sweet Potato Mash

Pumpkin French Toast

Roasted Salmon w/ Lentils & Bacon

Ziti w/ Portobello Mushrooms

Mortadella and Cheese Panini

Spicy Pumpkin Pound Cake

Pumpkin Curry Soup

Pumpkin Curry Soup

PumpkinCurrySoupl.jpgSubmitted by Chef Robin Lehnhoff-McCray, Valley of the Moon Winery

It is finally fresh pumpkin season, one of my favorite times of year for soup. This pumpkin soup recipe is prepared with fresh pumpkin along with good quality curry spices. These flavors pair perfectly with the light floral, fruity notes that the Pinot Blanc embraces and finishes nicely with the coconut milk to add balance to the wines acidity.

Where to Lunch in the City of Napa

By Deirdre Bourdet

For many, fall means back to school, back to work, and a brutal reality check to the hedonism and decadence of summertime.  In wine country, though, autumn ushers in harvest party season and every excuse you need to keep on keeping on with that summertime spirit--even if only for a day.  

The City of Napa's location at the southernmost portion of the valley makes it an ideal destination for busy folks on a shorter leash.  With about 20 tasting rooms and one working winery (Twenty Rows) within city limits, visitors no longer need to rely solely on Carneros wineries for their wine tasting needs.  And with a slew of excellent restaurants serving lunch on the weekends, Napa is fully equipped for an afternoon of deliciousness.

French Laundry Alum Does Takeout

tunasalad.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The French Laundry stands for many things... culinary perfectionism, wine country elegance, technical rigor, epicurean prestige, pristine ingredients, and the elusiveness of dinner reservations.  This August, a former French Laundry chef launched a more accessible form of culinary talent in the Oxbow Public Market.  

Graham Zanow and his wife Andrea are both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.  Andrea hails from Napa originally, so after several years of private chef-ing and other cooking jobs in various places, they settled in Napa and started Graham's Catering, an elite full service catering company with a passion for local and sustainable products. Last year the company catered meals for the Top Chef crew of celebrity judges, contestants, and crew members during the season 6 finale in Napa Valley, and this year, they opened a take-out storefront at the Oxbow Public Market.

Liberty Farm Duck Breast and Confit Leg with Lentils du Puy

f4.jpgSubmitted by  Chef Ryan Jette of FARM

FARM at The Carneros Inn provides an authentic wine country experience in a dramatic setting.  Chef de Cuisine Ryan Jette has created a menu reflecting the Inn's commitment to simple, elegant food, while highlighting wines of our region and organic and sustainable local agriculture. At FARM guests enjoy a true "farm to table experience, with their new culinary garden.  Also, come to Farm to enjoy the artisan cocktail menu  in the bar and outdoor Pavilion (featuring music on Thursdays through September).

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa-Salad.jpgby:  Kathy Glass, Director of Macaroni Salad, Platypus Tours

Wine Pairing Suggestion: Pairs beautifully with a slightly chilled un-oaked Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.

A delightful salad for warm days or evenings.  Quinoa meets many dietary requests in that it's gluten/wheat free, a natural protein and very tasty.  This dish is versatile as well.  Just leave out the cucumber and cilantro and serve it warm as a side dish in colder times of the year.

Best Bets For Brunch in Napa

By Deirdre Bourdet

I'm a firm believer in the classic mom maxim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day--particularly if your day begins in Napa.  Lining the stomach against all-day wine tasting, and feeding the brain in order to remember what you've experienced are both essential for optimal enjoyment of this food and wine paradise. Here are some of the best places in Napa proper to begin your taste adventure.

Domo Arigato, Mister Morimoto

morimoto1.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

To the collective delight of sushi lovers in wine country (and really, the entire state of California), Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto opened the doors of his first west coast restaurant in downtown Napa this July.  From what I can tell the place has been packed every night since it opened... including the random Wednesday evening I finally made it there to sample some of the Iron Chef's creations.

Garden Vegetable Frittata

santaNella1.jpgSubmitted by  Chef Bob Reeves of Santa Nella House Bed and Breakfast

Here at the Santa Nella House Bed and Breakfast, we use the fresh herbs and tomatoes from our garden and other local produce to create a luscious recipe for one of our gourmet breakfasts.  Along with home baked muffins, breads or coffee cakes, seasoned potatoes and homemade sausage, our meals will send you off for a day to enjoy our many sights and activities here in the Russian River area.   Please view our website for more information and a list of our specials,

New Staples For The Wine Country Kitchen

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:

Auberge du Soleil, Terrace des Délices

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aubergeOutsideDining.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The terrace seating at Auberge du Soleil is an institution. Not simply for the people-watching possibilities, or for the ultra-romantic setting, or for the impeccable Relais & Chateaux service, or even for the perfectly executed and perfectly delicious cuisine from chef Robert Curry.  Dining on the Auberge terrace is special because it offers all of these in one spectacular place--and that's the reason it belongs on the bucket list of everyone who loves the wine country.

Peachy Summer Sweets

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By Deirdre Bourdet

NAPA, CA - All too frequently, people complain that it's too hot to eat dessert. While I'd agree that a chunk of bread pudding is probably the last thing I would choose to end a meal in 90+ degree heat, there are tons of refreshing sweet finales to be had around the Valley at this time of year--and many of them involve peaches, my favorite summertime fruit.

Cocoa Nib Tuile

Submitted by Hotel Yountville
Executive Chef David Frakes

Makes: 8 Servings


  • ½C Sugar
  • ¼ C Light Corn Syrup
  • 1 T Brown Sugar
  • 1T Butter (room temperature)
  • Small Pinch Salt
  • ¼ C Cocoa Nibs
  • ¼ C Pistachios (chopped)

  • Summer Lunching in Yountville

    diningalfresco.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    The glorious Napa Valley summer has arrived, bringing day after day of perfect sunshine, and a compulsive, irresistible urge to lunch al fresco.  Downtown Yountville offers one of the highest concentrations of outdoor dining spots in the whole valley, all within an easy walk of one another, and all with their own brand of wine country charm.

    At the north end of Washington Street, the Hotel Luca's Italianate stone archway opens onto a serene courtyard patio with fountains, lounge seating, and the delightful Cantinetta Piero.  Seasonal ingredients, house-cured charcuterie, and rustic lusty flavors capture the spirit of Tuscany with a California accent.   The restaurant's courtyard facing walls open up entirely to the balmy air, allowing even those seated inside to enjoy the weather, while well-placed umbrellas by the terrace tables offer courtyard diners shade from the often searing sun.  To celebrate the arrival of their full bar license, and the indulgent noshing time between lunch and dinner, the restaurant is now offering a Margarita and Margherita promotion.  Between 4 and 6 p.m. during the week, buy any cocktail you like from the bar and score a gorgeous, thin-crust margherita pizza for only $5.  Yes, and yes.

    Secret Gardens of The French Laundry and Bardessono

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    frenchLaundryGardens1.jpgWho doesn't love being let in on a secret? Particularly a secret that involves the magical stuff that The French Laundry puts on its dinner plates. Summer is the perfect time to discover Jacobsen Orchards and Hill Family Farm, the tiny, family-owned, organic farms that sell only to The French Laundry and Bardessono Restaurant.
    You can walk the Jacobsen Orchard rows, taste and smell the organic peaches, plums, herbs, and esoteric vegetables that are inspiring Thomas Keller this season, and hear all about the history of this farm connection and its golden wares from the godson of the Jacobsens: Ryan Hill.  Ryan will regale you with tales of the Jacobsen Orchard's humble beginnings in the 1970s, when San Franciscans Peter and Gwenny purchased the Yountville land and tiny wooden shack as a country getaway, complete with outdoor shower/garden hose. Their cabin is still there, just across from the larger barn residence brought in several years later, and the fabulous outdoor kitchen that now looks out on the farm rows themselves.

    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.

    Warming Up to Dining Al Fresco

    cafegarre.jpgSubmitted by Tri-Valley CVB

    Warm Summer weather in Tri-Valley, California is the perfect excuse for residents and visitors  to leave their kitchens and enjoy a meal al fresco.   Diners are sure to find what satisfies them, whether it be a romantic meal among the vineyards or a sidewalk café in a quaint downtown. Tri-Valley, California boasts over 80 restaurants in all price ranges that feature outdoor dining.

    Tri-Valley, California restaurants have seen a rise in popularity for outdoor dining, and have expanded their offerings to include complimentary entertainment, a spot for the family pet, and more.  Café Garré has expanded its cafe to include seating for 100 on the patio, and boasts a lawn and fountain area for pets and children.  They also host Vineyard Nights Summer Music on the Patio every Friday night, as well as Bocce Ball and Italian Dinner nights every Wednesday.

    C Casa Es Su Casa

    cbistro.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    At last, at long last, C Casa has opened in the Oxbow Public Market in the place formerly occupied by Rotisario.  The rotisserie remains, but the space is otherwise transformed into a warm, contemporary tapas bar feel, with absolutely killer patio seating.  Dark wood, silver hardware, sleek leather seating, and well-placed accent mirrors create an inviting lounge space looking east toward the Copia building and the hills of Alta Heights.  Finally, someone putting the Oxbow's shaded terraces to good use!

    Sixteen Ways On Sunday: The HALL Cabernet Cookoff

    hallchef.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Last Sunday HALL Winery hosted their first annual Cabernet Cookoff, inviting eight professional and eight amateur chef teams to compete for cash donations to their non-profits of choice.  The challenge: create a dish to pair with the 2005 HALL Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, using primarily organic and sustainable ingredients.  After sampling each of the sixteen submissions, accompanied by plenty of the wine in question, guest attendees would cast their votes for the best amateur and best professional teams.

    Another Yountville Star

    michelin_star02.jpgÉtoile's wunderkind chef, Perry Hoffman, has joined the Michelin ranks.

    By LeeAnne Jones (Napa Sonoma Magazine)

    In 2009, at the age of 25, Perry Hoffman of Domaine Chandon's Étoile Restaurant became the youngest U.S. chef to be awarded a Michelin star. Knowing his story, it's obvious why: Hoffman has restaurants in his blood.

    His grandparents, Sally and Don Schmitt, were the original owners of the French Laundry, and Hoffman spent his formative years helping in the kitchen. "I grew up on French Laundry leftovers," he says. "We'd have family meals at a picnic table in the herb garden. It was a lot of fun." Continuing his family's legacy of cooking was an easy decision. Hoffman worked in the kitchens of the Boonville Hotel, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, and Auberge du Soleil before landing at Étoile in 2007, where he was quickly promoted from sous chef to chef de cuisine to executive chef.

    Sipping Savant in Suisun Valley

    manakras corner.jpgAs the Sipping Savant name would indicate, I like to 'sip' wine.  I discovered a new Wine Region and took some friend along for the visit.  In between wine tasting at Ledgewood Creek, olive oil tasting at Il Fiorello, and then wine tasting at Mankas Corner/Vezer Vineyards Sipping Savant Entourage were in need of sustenance. Time for lunch.

    At the stop sign for Mankas Corner, Sipping Savant Entourage found the Vintage Corner Caffé.  What a wonderful find!  Their cuisine has a great mix of comfort and continental and all very, very fresh.

    Bacon and Egg Salad

    solbarRecipeBaconEgg.jpgChef Brandon Sharp of Solbar at Solage Calistoga - Calistoga, CA

    A full-service bar and restaurant, Solbar serves up delicious California Soul Food and is open to the public. Named Napa Valley's Best New Restaurant, Solbar features a woodsy-chic vibe inside, and a spacious outdoor terrace where you can dine or relax with drinks by the firepit while taking in stunning views. In-room, take-out and poolside food service is available.

    Savor our flavorful, seasonal, ingredient-driven menu that features the best local, organic and sustainably farmed elements for both indulgent and healthful selections.

    Easter Sunday Openings in The Napa Valley

    Each holiday season The Council produces a list of "Businesses Open" ... and this Easter is no exception.
    Click Here for this helpful summary of Easter Sunday openings for wineries, restaurants, and spas.
    Happy Holidays from
    The Napa Valley Destination Council!

    Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib with Roasted Beets

    Prime Rib Image #1.jpgServe with 2005 Arrowood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

    We've taken the classic steak and red wine pairing and amplified it with a whole rib roast crusted in horseradish and thyme.  The richness in the prime rib complements the smooth tannins in our 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon while the baby beets bring out the subtle earthy aroma in the wine.

    Serves 8 to 12

    Irish Mouths Are Smiling Too

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    irishsodabread.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Many holidays have their traditional foods, only eaten for the occasion.  Frequently such dishes are... shall we say... less than thrilling, which makes abstention the rest of the year pretty do-able.  But when something is truly fabulous--like champagne, or Easter ham, or Irish soda bread--why wait for the special occasion to enjoy it again? This St. Patrick's Day I faced my baking disability and associated fears head-on, and made soda bread from a recipe developed by Mrs. Mary O'Callaghan in County Clare, Ireland.

    Miraculously it turned out great despite my usual compulsive meddling, and reminded me of how incredibly delicious this stuff is.  A few days after St. Patrick's Day, I tested the luck o'the Irish as a half portion, again with the lazy person modifications, and met with even better success because it didn't take as long to bake through (only 40 min).  I can only conclude that this bread recipe is fool-proof.

    More Than A One-Tip Wonder

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    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Asparagus gets a bad rap.  Far too many people think of it as the limp, stringy, soggy, slimy, and stinky green-grey stripes garnishing a "fancy" continental cuisine plate of tastelessness.  But when it's not boiled or steamed beyond all recognition, asparagus has a sweet, unique flavor, a cheery spring color, and fantastic crunch that make it one of the most versatile vegetables out there.  "Continental" cuisine is the appropriate culinary tradition for asparagus only if it refers to Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Americas as well as Europe.  And at this time of year, the spiky green palisades are at the sweet peak of their season, waiting to be rediscovered.

    Twice The Hen It Used To Be

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Brunch menus around the Napa Valley are gearing up for spring with a new twist on a breakfast favorite.  Potato hashes are as familiar and time-honored as buttermilk pancakes, but a new species of this staple brunch dish has invaded Napa this year: the chicken hash.

    Much like caviar and smoked fish canapes, chicken hash brings together two of the most prized parts of the same animal: eggs and meat.  Unlike its fishy cousin, though, chicken hash also suits these frugal times and makes delicious use of an inexpensive and ubiquitous animal.  Who hasn't got eggs and a piece or two of leftover chicken in their fridge on any given week?  Shredding up those leftovers and mixing them with sautéed potatoes, garlic, and other pantry seasonings of your choice stretches them back into a full plate, and topping them with fried or poached eggs transforms the humble hodgpodge into a thrillingly rich and fabulous indulgence.  Toss in some leftover vegetables, sliced fresh asparagus, mushrooms, arugula, or whatever you've got to bulk up the nutritional value and the portion size, and you're very good to go.  Whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, chicken hash rocks.

    Pork and Greens

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    By Deirdre Bourdet

    My brother Andy does a killer pulled pork.  Every time he makes it is cause for celebration... and fevered, uncontrollable gorging by every family member and friend within driving distance.  My brother consistently stuffs himself to the point of needing Mylanta intervention, but thanks to my own iron will and samurai-like discipline, I limit my own consumption level to only slightly over the one-pound mark.  Smoky, succulent, and richly seasoned, it cries out to be stuffed into corn tortillas with mango salsa and cotija cheese... or piled onto little Hawaiian rolls with a dab of barbecue sauce... or shoveled directly from plate to mouth with the assistance of leafy green vegetables.

    Dining in Santa Ynez

    Salmon special at Trattoria Grappolo

    Image by greenlagirl via Flickr

    By Robert P. Farmer

    Trattoria Grappolo
    Typically bustling with locals, this lively hotspot was opened by an inspired chef transplanted from the Calabria region of Italy. The roast fish and chicken specialties suit nicely after a day of wine tasting in the area. The pizzas from the wood-fired oven are also a popular draw. The wine list features greatest hits from the surrounding valley vineyards as well as selections from the chef's home country. When dinner's done, slip next door to the Maverick Saloon for some true local flavor.

    Open for lunch:
    Tues-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm;
    Open for dinner:  Mon-Sun 5-10pm
    3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez
    (805) 688-6899

    Save Shroom For My Love

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Winter vegetables are notoriously time consuming and obnoxious to prepare.  Few people are willing to double their usual meal preparation time in order to accommodate the stubborn nature of cold weather veggies.  While I love greens and root vegetables at least as much as the next person, I'm also tremendously lazy and don't like spending every night of my life on the prep work and cooking necessary to transform them into something tasty and tender enough to eat.

    Yeti, I Know You...

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    yetifrontdoor.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    I'm sure my girlfriend and I are not the only ones who loved that guy on American Idol who auditioned in Atlanta with his original one-man duet lovesong, beginning "La-ty, I know you," in falsetto.  Now I hear that guy every time I hear a word that starts with "lay" or ends with "tee"... or anything remotely similar.  As we strolled under the large Yeti Restaurant sign into the historic sawmill building of the Jack London Village Shops in Glen Ellen, the Atlanta guy was with us.  But the delectable smells wafting up from the open kitchen into the restaurant quickly put to rest any fears of further comparisons to that performance.  Warm spices, creamy curries, and blistering tandoor breads filled the air with their enticing aromas and made it clear that we needed to get to know Yeti, stat.

    Ahi Tuna in a Cucumber Rollup

    Ahi Tuna Roll-up.jpgSubmitted by Gloria Ferrer

    The clean flavors of "maguro" sushi come together in this dazzling appetizer. A sesame-soy marinade lifts the tuna flavors, and the wasabi and pickled ginger give these delectable rollups a real punch. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut sparkling wine provides a vivacious accompaniment to the spicy, exotic nature of the dish while balancing the salty flavor of the marinade.

    Yield: 24 pieces

    • ½ lb Ahi tuna - absolutely fresh, dark red, high quality "sushi grade" is essential here

    • 2 T Green onion - chives will work as a substitute
    • 1 T Fresh ginger - if you can't find the fresh root, skip it. Don't use powder!
    • 2 T soy sauce - good quality "shoyu" works best
    • 2 t Rice wine vinegar - substitute any light wine vinegar if necessary
    • 1 T Toasted sesame oil - toasted sesame oil has more flavor than untoasted
    • Pinch Black pepper--several turns from the peppermill works best

    The Pearl of Great Price

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    The Restaurant Pearl has anchored the corner of Franklin and Pearl Streets in downtown Napa for almost fifteen years, and is much beloved by locals with a taste for internationally-inflected wine country cuisine.  The steak soft tacos, the Guerrero-style grilled corn on the cob, and anything and everything seafood on the menu have cult followings.  But as the restaurant name suggests, the oysters are the most unique and fabulous things to eat there...  and the most fabulous time to eat said oysters is in the winter, on a chilly Saturday afternoon during the Oyster Extravaganza.

    Taste of Suisun Valley

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    Suisun Valley has more going on than just grapes!

    While you're initial trip to the Suisun Valley AVA might be wine tasting geared (and we don't blame you), be sure to stop in at the local farm and produce stands. Suisun Valley has several farms open year-round with fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables. Many of these are family-owned farms and we're sure you won't be able to resist a myriad of juicy peaches, sweet corn, strawberries, plums,  tomatoes, squash, watermelon and much more.

    How To Feed Your Lover

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Valentine's Day is upon us.  Do you know what you're feeding your lover?  

    Much has been written about aphrodisiac ingredients, but if your love target doesn't like them--skip 'em.  The key to a romantic dinner is making food that is attractive to the object of your desire, and doesn't weigh either of you down too much.  Definitely choose dishes that inspire the senses through fragrant herbs and spices, exciting textures, beautiful shapes, and addicting flavors, but steer clear of things you know are on their Do Not Eat list. I will never attempt to seduce my partner in crime with lamb, for example, no matter how irresistible and succulent it may sound to me.  Stick to things they like.  With this in mind, here are some tasty ideas for a happy Valentine's Day.
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    Korean Style Kobe Beef Lettuce Wrap

    Korean BBQ.jpgServe with  Kendall-JacksonHighland Estates Cabernet Sauvignon

    To hold up to this full bodied, complex Cabernet Sauvignon we borrowed the intense flavors of Korean barbeque.  Kobe tri-tip is marinated and grilled before being wrapped in a lettuce cup from our garden.

    Serves 8

    • 1/2 small onion
    • 8 garlic cloves
    • 1 C. honey
    • 2/3 C. soy sauce
    • 1/4 C. red wine
    • 2 Tbsp. whiskey
    • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 tsp. sesame oil
    • 1/2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
    • 2 1/2 lbs. tri-tip, sliced thin against the grain (or Korean-style ribs, ask your butcher to slice these for you)
    • 2 heads red leaf lettuce
    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Most visitors to wine country have experienced at least once the painful desperation of not having enough food in their stomach to carry them through the day's wine tasting agenda.  For people who don't live locally, filling that ravening hole can be an exercise in frustration and financial dismay.  Many restaurants are expensive, and many smaller less expensive eating establishments have strange hours or slow service that don't jibe with a tasting party's urgent need to feed.

    Here are a few locals' suggestions for places to fuel up in Napa Valley without breaking the bank:

    Homard Homage

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Lobster is a luscious, decadent food. From lobster rolls to lobster ravioli, the crustacean's rich flavor, meaty texture, and affinity for butter make it universally desirable. Unfortunately for us non-New Englanders, lobsters' high cost tends to keep them in the realm of the special occasion foods. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, though, and I'd venture to say that our lust for lobster is more intense than the Mainers', and our delight in devouring it much greater.

    Wine country restaurants give the traditional lobster preparations a creative California twist, making the crustacean even more special, and even more compatible with the local wines.

    A Super Bowl of Chili

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    It's that time of year to gather up your friends, stock the beer (or wine) fridge, turn on the TV, and sit around eating manly foods like salty meats, spicy meats, fatty meats, and fried stuff.  Yes indeed, the Super Bowl is upon us! The need for satisfyingly unhealthy ways to feed the ravening crowds is mounting.  But what to do if yucky weather makes barbecuing meat out of the question?  Opt for the indoor sports food of choice, one that combines fatty, salty, meaty, rich, and crunchy in endless permutations, all in a single bowl... chili con carne.

    Hail Mauro, Full Of Grace

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    2010-01-15 21.13.11.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    I love to be surprised.  The opening of a real Thai restaurant in downtown Napa made my month.  Further surprises in the Napa restaurant department seemed unlikely, especially given that the other two new places opening in town were both angling for local-friendly comfort food--by definition, not the stuff surprises are made of.   The endless hordes thronging Norman Rose Tavern for quality burgers and fried chicken every night shock no one.  But the discovery of another solid, interesting, and reasonably priced eatery just a block away--with no wait--totally made my weekend.

    The Plight of The Cab-Drinker

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    One of the biggest challenges facing a fan of cabernet sauvignon is finding foods that stand up to their bold and brawny wine. Unless you subsist entirely on red meats, you have no doubt noticed cab's tendency to overwhelm or clash with more delicate flavors and textures, particularly vegetables or white meats and fish.  Does this mean that you can never enjoy a glass of cab with these kinds of meals?  Of course not.  It just means you need to be more creative about bridging the gap between them.

    Here are a few pointers on making your food more compatible with cabernet:

    Cognac, Your New Best Friend

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    By Deirdre Bourdet

    I'm not a brown liquor kind of girl, but cognac has a special place in my heart and kitchen pantry.  Soups, vegetables, cheeses, meats, desserts--virtually anything you're cooking ascends to a higher plane when kissed with cognac.

    Many people have had cognac cream sauce with steak. Many people have had cognac with lobster and crayfish, either as a bisque or in the shellfish sauce.  But few people in the states have enjoyed cognac-macerated prunes the way the Europeans do.  In France, pruneaux-Armagnac is a classic and much beloved ice cream flavor made with--yep, Armagnac and prunes.  This combo also finds its way into other desserts with regularity... not surprisingly.

    Where the Kiwi Is Not a Fruit

    mussels.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Cold January weather and my nearly depleted stock of suitcase wines make my thoughts return to New Zealand, where it is currently high summer and the oh-so-drinkable "savvy" (kiwi slang for sauvignon blanc) is flowing like water.  I spent two gluttonous weeks there last September, eating and drinking my way from Auckland in the north to Napier in the east, then to the south island through Marlborough and Waipara, and down to Christchurch.  It was pure hedonistic bliss.

    Mexican-Inspired Ramekins

    hennesseehouserecipe.jpgSubmitted by Lorri Walsh, Innkeeper, Hennessey House Bed and Breakfast, Napa

    Start your adventure in Napa with a hearty breakfast that leaves you prepared for a full day of wine tasting and exploration. This one's a favorite for a cool fall morning.

    Neither Here Nor Gruyère

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    By Deirdre Bourdet

    My obsession with fresh goat cheeses often keeps me from buying any other kind.  Chèvre is so delicious on its own, so versatile in cooking, so hardy when forgotten in the refrigerator--I forget that another cheese also boasts all of these characteristics--and looks and tastes entirely, refreshingly, different.

    Tavern of Burgery Delights

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    burger1.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    The much-anticipated Norman Rose Tavern opened with a bang at the end of December, with crowds out the door and throngs around the bar.  No one expected any less for a new restaurant from the folks behind the deservedly and wildly popular Pizzeria Azzurro just a few blocks away.

    The Tavern is the first restaurant open for business in the new Napa Square Building, in a quickly upscaling section of First Street in downtown Napa. It bills itself as offering "elevated American classics" like big chopped salads, fried chicken sandwiches, all-beef hot dogs from Fatted Calf, mashed potatoes, french fries, and of course... cheeseburgers.

    Bacon, Sweet Mystery of Life

    francisnbacon.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Sweet-savory desserts are now a way of life, it seems.  But for many, the most exciting (if borderline disturbing) sweet creations are those that incorporate the incomparable flavor of pork.  Bacony sweets were once the exclusive realm of the molecular gastronomists, who put bacon ice cream in soup with a slow poached egg in preparations designed as much to shock as to delight the taste buds.  The current generation of porked out sweets, though, seem to be taking a more natural approach that I think will be better received than the chocolate-bacon truffles of yesteryear.

    Eating for Luck in the New Year

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    New Year's is a time for renewed energy, and renewed hope for a brighter future...given a bit of luck. Small wonder then that most of the world sets the New Year's table with dishes designed to maximize their good fortune in the coming year. Lucky colors, lucky animals, and vegetables that look like money are all welcomed to the party. Here are some ideas to make 2010 the best year yet.

    The Gift of Ganache

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Ganache is magically delicious.  Cream + chocolate = sweet perfection, in a preternaturally versatile combination.  The same basic ganache recipe (equal weight boiling cream and chopped dark chocolate) works equally well poured hot over ice cream sundaes as it does chilled in truffle form, or as a thick layer of decadent frosting on a chocolate lover's cake.  And, because hot cream is so easily infused with other flavors, making ganache taste like your favorite herb, spice, or other flavor is one of the most impressive, no-talent-necessary kitchen tricks in the world.

    Being a bit of a culinary thrill-seeker, I take advantage of Christmas gifting season to experiment with new ganache infusions.  Last year my friends got jasmine tea, salted caramel, and fresh thyme-meyer lemon zest truffles.  This year it's chipotle, earl grey, and rosemary-parmesan.  It's pretty hard to go wrong with cream and chocolate, so be bold... and maybe start with a small batch. I've found 6 ounces cream and 6 ounces chocolate tends to be a good experimental size.

    Mini Bistro, Mega Delicious

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    mini mango kitchen shot.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Mini Mango Thai Bistro opened this month in the downtown space last occupied by Bleaux Magnolia, and judging by the packed house and fifteen minute wait last Friday night, Napa's Asian food fans have already heard about it.  The place is indeed mini, as the majority of the seating at that location is outside on the fabulous (seasonal) patio.  But in a commendable show of restraint, the new tenants have not festooned the tiny indoor space with diminutive mangoes as you might expect from the name.  The look, like the cuisine, is minimalist and contemporary, with nary a mango in sight.

    VIDEO: The Classic Holiday Roast Recipe

    Learn to cook like the pros for the holidays! Chef Charlie Palmer (of Dry Creek Kitchen at Hotel Healdsburg) shows Harry Smith and Debbye Turner Bell how to cook a holiday rib roast and some unique side dishes with winter vegetables on the CBS Early Show.


    Watch CBS News Videos Online

    Delicious Deals

    From truly cheap eats to exquisitely high-value dining

    By Sue Elliott

    When business gets tough, restaurateurs get creative, coming up with delicious high-value offers to entice diners through the door. We've included many of the best deals here along with a handful of little-known, always-cheap eats.

    Angèle Restaurant & Bar
    The deal: Classics, $18-$20.
    When: Sun.-Thurs. 5-9 p.m.
    What you get: A hearty, traditional French one-dish meal. Current Classics include La Chaudrée fish stew on Sundays, ratatouille on Mondays, choucroute alsacienne on Tuesdays, coq au vin on Wednesdays, and chef's choice on Thursdays. The ingredients are fresh, the preparations meticulous.
    Other deals: Half-off wines and beers that pair nicely with the Classics. That means Chardonnay on Sundays, "other reds" (Syrah, Petite Sirah, Côte Rôtie, Beaujolais, Crozes-Hermitage) on Mondays, beers on Tuesdays, and Pinot Noir on Wednesdays. Every bottle on the wine list is half-price on Thursdays.
    Where: 540 Main St., Napa, (707) 252-8115,

    Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ
    The deal: Pony Express Lunch, $10.
    When: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
    What you get: Fast and tasty. Choose any sandwich (pulled pork, beef brisket, shredded barbecued chicken, grilled veggies, or The Reubenesque), plus any side (such as fresh, crispy cole slaw), and any nonalcoholic beverage. The delicious meal is served in 10 minutes or less, along with three barbecue sauces.
    Other Deals: Happy hour, weekdays 3-6 p.m. The $5 rib and cole slaw appetizer includes three Smokin' St. Louis Cut ribs. The $10 BBQ sampler is enough for a meal, with brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and slaw.
    Where: 975 First St., Napa, (707) 226-3976,

    Read More
    Recipe created by Chad Hendrickson, Executive Chef, The Hess Collection. Enjoy with Hess Collection 19 Block Cuvée 2006.

    The layers in our Hess Collection 19 Block Cuvée complement the many layers of flavor within this dish. The full-bodied wine with its prominent red cherry and raspberry flavors enhance the freshness of the herbs while the elegant tannins complement the hearty beef and blue cheese flavors.

    Ingredients: Skirt Steak
    • 1 lb.Skirt steak, cleaned, defatted
    • ½ Tbsp. Thyme, chopped
    • ½;Oregano, chopped
    • ½ Tbsp. Sage, chopped
    • ½ Tbsp. Garlic, chopped
    • 2 Tbsp.Extra virgin olive oil
    • To taste Salt and Pepper

    Holiday Hors d'Oeuvres

    smoked oysters.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Smoked Oysters with Fennel and Lemon

    (approx. 4-6 hors d'oeuvre servings)
    Rediscover the retro magic of smoked oysters! The dressing is highly acidic so you don't want the oysters to sit in it too long, or it will ruin their luscious texture.

    Let's Get This Party Started

    cheesePlatter.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Holiday meals are the stuff that memories are made of.  Ritualistic dishes, predictable (and often dreaded) guest lists, a stressed out hostess, and the inevitable family drama combine for pure holiday magic. Whether you are just beginning to establish some edible traditions, or seeking desperately to add a new twist to the rote and routine, punchy autumn appetizers offer a fun and memorable way to jump start the party.

    Hors d'oeuvres don't have to be elaborate or fussy. You can build any number of fabulous little taste explosions using a few key ingredients and some creative flavor combinations. 

    Here are my tips for appetizer success:

    Hunter's Stew

    hunterstew.jpgBy Lori Tolson of Vint Hill Craft Winery
    We love fall; the colors, warm confort foods and the rich wines that accompany them.  This recipe has been created specifically to accompany Vint Hll Craft Winery's 2008 Cabernet Franc.

    If you have visited the winery on Saturdays, you've probably met one of our Vintners, Lori Tolson, helping out behind the bar. This recipe comes from Lori with her compliments for the season.

    'Tis the Season... for Olives

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    The start of olive season always gets me excited because it means olio nuovo is here--the bright green, fresh out of the press, creamy and practically alive-tasting oil. It's the first, freshest extra virgin oil from a crush and it only keeps its magic for a short time, making it an elusive commodity. I love to finish salads or fish with a drizzle of the stuff, or just set out a dish with good bread and sea salt for one of the simplest and most delicious snacks ever... more than worthy of a quality bottle of vino to wash it down.

    Just Desserts!

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    Frozen Grand Marnier Torte, Recipe by Sarah Tenaglia, Photography by Mark Thomas

    It's no wonder everyone's New Year's resolution is to lose weight considering the homemade treats and delectable goodies that begin to bombard us this time of year! One is not even safe at work.

    Case in point - as I sit and write this blog, there is a plate of candy on the bookshelf next to me, a bowl of chocolate on my way to the kitchen and on our reception desk. I think the candy at the reception desk is the most cruel. I enter the building - "oh look! candy. Let me take one for the trip to my office".  I leave the building to go to the bathroom - "oh look! candy! Let me reward myself".  I enter the building back  from the bathroom - "oh look! the candy is still here. I think I'll just take another piece". The vicious cycle continues throughout the day whether I'm leaving for lunch, taking a call outside or going on break.

    It doesn't stop at candy. Workmates bring in muffins, cakes, cookies, and pastries of every kind. All diet plans woefully go awry this time of year yet we forgive ourselves because 'tis the season to indulge especially if you've been good all year. (If you weren't, we'll pretend)

    So without further ado, here are some dessert recipes. We say, "savor and indulge!" at every possible chance whether its at the family dinner table, a friend's coffee table or (gulp) the office break counter!

    Foodie's Holiday Wish List

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    By Deirdre Bourdet

    cheeseKnifeSet.jpgMy family insists that I am difficult to buy gifts for, due to my extremely personal and subjective taste (aka "pickiness") when it comes to clothing and the like.  I remind them annually that it's actually very simple to get me something I will love - as long as it relates to food or wine (or is in fact food or wine), doesn't clutter up my cabinets and counters, and doesn't dominate my kitchen aesthetic, I'm a happy camper.  In this vein, I offer you some suggestions for the picky foodie in your family, virtually guaranteed to please those who love to cook and eat:

    (1) Laguiole 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set 
    Laguiole is still the gold standard for cheese service knives, and for good reason.  The traditional design is classic, elegant, but also sleekly modern.  And the knives are fantastic: a razor-sharp cleaver for the hardy mountain cheeses, a short rounded spreader for the soft stuff, and versatile long blade with pointed tip to spear that hunk of camembert you've just sheared off.  Gorgeous and functional, these knives are welcomed everywhere they go.  

    Buena Vista, Bueno Gusto

    BVC_Ramal+Vineyard+Estate_Windmill.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    As an incorrigibly food-obsessed individual, my favorite wine tastings are those that involve snacks as part of the experience. I was recently invited to visit Buena Vista Carneros to try their current releases and check out their Carneros Room tasting, the food and wine pairing program offered to visitors on Saturday mornings.

    Cooking With Wine

    When You Actually Put It In the Food

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Some may consider the deliberate pouring of wine into anything other than a drinking vessel or eager mouth a shameful, wasteful act.  While I see their point, wine-based cooking also happens to be one of the most delicious, easy, and traditional techniques for creating wine-friendly food.  A splash of red to deglaze your meat searing pan, a dash of white to loosen up those all-too-quickly browning onions, and you've suddenly added worlds of flavor, depth, and sophistication to your creation.
    Then there are the truly wine-based recipes (coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, moules marinière, etc.) where the wine takes center stage.  Typically there is a great deal of reduction involved--simmering the wine with other ingredients to concentrate flavor and reduce the volume of liquid to a thicker, more sauce-like consistency.  These recipes make you confront the question of which bottle to use head-on, because the quality of the wine reduction really sets the tone of the dish.
    chili relleno-horzZ.jpgWild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Chile Rellenos with New Mexico Red Chile Sauce

    Recipe provided by Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar chef/owner Jeff Mall from the Down Home : Downtown cookbook, with Josh Silvers from Syrah Bistro and published by Rodney Strong Vineyards.

    Pair with Rodney Strong Knotty Vines Estate Zinfandel

    Take in the changing of the seasons while sipping a glass of Rodney Strong's Knotty Vines Estate Zinfandel. Fresh, bright berry fruit from our heritage Russian River vineyard combined with the ripe pepper jamminess from our Alexander Valley vineyards make for wonderful diversity of flavor that compliment these chile rellenos.

    Formule de Fig

    fig+front[1].jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    I love prix-fixe menus, and wish more restaurants outside of Europe embraced the concept. There is something very satisfying about walking into a restaurant and having the whole meal just brought to you without instruction, all thought out and planned and decided by the chefs. So obviously, when the girl and the fig invited me to come check out their Bistro Plat du Jour prix fixe, I jumped at the chance.

    Frankie's Italian Deli & Grocery

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    frankiesDeli.jpgNew Downtown Napa Deli

    I had pretty much given up hope in finding a really good deli sandwich for lunch in downtown Napa. Too often workmates tried to lure me to makeshift deli places and each time I left disappointed and many times throwing my sandwich away on the sly. As a result, I decided to just part ways with this standard fare for lunch. And certainly, downtown Napa has plenty of other lunchtime options.

    However, today I ventured into Frankie's Italian Deli located on 1502 Main Street at the urging of a friend who boasted she loved everything on the menu.  "Everything"?  Hmmm. I decided to order the Genoa sandwich which had Italian salami, provolone & anchovies, red onion, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette on a French roll. (had them add pepperonchinis too).  And my opinion on the matter?

    Thanksgiving Desserts To Die For

    It's no wonder that everyone's New Year resolution is to lose weight considering that one gorges themselves for a month straight starting with Thanksgiving through Christmas!

    Of course, it's quite hard to resist all of the wonderful foods this time of year especially all of the sweets and baked goods.  Dancing in my head are pies, cakes, tarts, cookies and many other warm, feel good treats. One is not even safe at work. So without further ado, start the baking, grab the elastic waistband pants and let the feasting begin!

    Pecan Pumpkin Butter Pie with Butterscotch Cream

    Frozen Pumpkin Mousse w/ Walnut Toffee Crunch
    "With no pastry crust to wrangle, these luscious parfaits of pumpkin mousse and cream are easier to make than pumpkin pie."

    Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle
    "I am a huge fan of trifles, and this is so easy and so delicious. It has the right ingredients for the holidays to bring in all the warm fuzzies of past years." - Linda, Food Network

    Pumpkin Cake w/ Caramel-Cream Cheese Frosting
    "In this fun variation on traditional pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake spiced with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves gets frosted with a slightly tangy, super-caramelly frosting. It's delicious served cold or at room temperature."

    Olive Oil & Sauternes Cake w/ Roasted Pears
    "Because Neil Perry has a passion for wine, he uses Sauternes in every component of this dessert, from the cake to the sauce. He also adds olive oil to the batter, which creates a delightfully moist crumb. Pair w/ Riesling."

    Caramel Pecan Pie
    tart2.jpgOf course, your family expects a traditional holiday meal. But, you yearn for the fun and challenge of cooking up something a little different and adventurous. Why not do both? Prepare the traditional meal of time-honored favorites your family loves, but this time, give tradition a tasty timely tweak. Here are some recipes to help you discover that traditional doesn't have to mean predictable. We've taken holiday menu classics and recharged them with a few fresh new ingredients. Try these delectable subtle flavors that add to but don't overpower the familiar ones and take your holiday dinner from being a good meal to a great one.

    Cranberry relish gets a new taste makeover - and powerful antioxidant boost - with the addition of a splash of Petite Sirah and a half cup of fresh blueberries mingled with the cranberries. The delicate sweetness of the blueberries helps tone down the cranberries' tartness in a beautiful glistening tapestry of rich jewel colors.

    Cranberry And Blueberry Relish

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    cranberry.jpgSubmitted by Concannon Vineyard

    Cranberry relish gets a new taste makeover - and powerful antioxidant boost - with the addition of a splash of Petite Sirah and a half cup of fresh blueberries mingled with the cranberries. The delicate sweetness of the blueberries helps tone down the cranberries' tartness in a beautiful glistening tapestry of rich jewel colors.

    Prep Time: 5 Minutes
    Active Time: 10 Minutes
    Inactive Time: Refrigerate for 4 hours

    Yields approximately 2 cups

    • 12 ounce package fresh cranberries
    • ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • ½ cup honey
    • ¼ cup Concannon Petite Sirah
    • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
    • ⅓ cup orange juice


    tart.jpgFor a sensational savory side, try the caramelized onion and gruyere tart. Fresh Bermuda onions caramelized in butter to a golden brown blend with cream, eggs and heavenly gruyere. Fresh nutmeg and thyme send the flavor to the stratosphere plus scent the table with robust spicy holiday aromas.

    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Yields one 9-inch tart or 6 individual 4¼ inch mini tarts. Either option should be a fluted pan with a removable bottom. (Note: you may use store bought pastry or your own favorite pastry recipe.)

    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 cups yellow onions, sliced thin
    • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
    • ½ cup Concannon Petite Sirah
    • 4 teaspoons fresh thyme, stems
      removed and chopped
    • 6 ounces prosciutto, chopped
    • 1 cup gruyere cheese, grated
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1 sheet prepared pastry, thawed
    • salt and pepper to taste


    In a large skillet, melt the butter and oil on medium high heat. Add the onions, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Sauté on low heat for 30 minutes until golden brown and velvety soft. Add the wine and cook an additional 10 minutes until the liquid has evaporated.

    Cut the pastry to fit the fluted pans. Press the pastry on the bottom and against the sides. Poke holes on the bottom of shell and on the sides. Brush the borders of the tarts with the egg and assemble the prosciutto on the bottom of the tart. Add the gruyere cheese (evenly if using individual tarts) and top with the caramelized onions. Bake until golden at 350 degrees, about 20 minutes.

    Grilled Duck Breasts with Black Currant Pomegranate Sauce

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    recipeFerrariCaranoDuck.jpgSubmitted by Ferari-Carano Vineyards & Winery

    Nothing says fall and winter more than a warm, cozy dish that marries the sweetness of harvest fruit with the traditional entrée's of the season. Ferrari-Carano Winery has just the recipe for you - Grilled Duck Breasts With Black Currant Pomegranate Sauce.  It's also the perfect dish for company during the holidays.

    The Ferrari-Carano Zinfandel pairs well with the duck and "boasts aromas of boysenberry and blueberry pie with hints of vanilla and baking spices. Concentrated fruit continues on the palate with juicy, sweet wild berries that linger well into a finish that is highlighted by smooth, silky tannins."

    The New Napa Tippling Points

    The Border Michelada.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Recession-special happy hours are still popping up at a fabulous pace, even though the recession tide has turned and is (officially) over.  Downtown Napa recently added a couple of new and exciting options for happy hour tippling, besides Pica Pica Bar with its fab $3 drinks and ceviche.

    The Untraditional Turkey

    To most, turkey and Thanksgiving is as obvious as peanut butter and jelly.  What isn't obvious anymore is how we cook that turkey.  In addition to the traditional basted, bagged and roasted turkey methods we now have a myriad of new, exciting and untraditional ways of cooking that delectable bird. Step into the culinary world of turkey grilling (yes, on the bbq!), smoking, deep frying and rotisserie. Set your fears aside and discover the "untraditional turkey" this year.  You may be surprised at the response you and your bird get this year, kissing your traditional method goodbye forever.
    Don't believe me?  Then let me tell you a story ....

    Last Thanksgiving, my husband decided to smoke the turkey instead of the traditional "bagged" turkey. While my husband is great on the grill and smoked turkey sounded wonderful, I did not like the idea of being adventurous on Thanksgiving. Truth be told, I was a little worried that it wouldn't quite turn out as expected. What's more, we were expecting quite a few people for dinner!

    To be safe, I cooked my traditional "bagged" turkey and it came out as expected - juicy and delicious.  However, my turkey sat virtually ignored and my husband's turkey was completely devoured. He clearly "smoked" the competition-namely me. I conceded defeat.  The smoked turkey was good, absolutely memorable, and our family can never go back.  Our traditional turkey has forevermore flown the coup and has been replaced by our new tradition-the "untraditional turkey". 

    To help you find your own new Thanksgiving un-tradition, we've provided a few our favorite recipes and methods below.  Happy Thanksgiving! 

    Pumpkin Lovin

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    Pumpkin Cupcake Karas 3.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    This time of year you can't turn around without a pumpkin or nine staring you in the face. Every storefront has trotted out at least ten or twelve for the window display, and the Stanly Ranch Pumpkin Patch is rockin' and rollin' with its hay bale maze, giant sunflowers, and pumpkins of every size and color. Though the decorative pumpkin frenzy will die down after Halloween, the edible pumpkin bandwagon is just getting going in wine country. It's one of my favorite seasons for sweets.

    Spooky Salsa

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    Ceja Tasting Rm2.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    In keeping with their reputation as the first family of fun, the Cejas are throwing a Halloween bash this year in their downtown tasting bar. This means far more than special pricing on the wine... though there will be by the glass discounts and a healthy 30% off all their bottles for the evening, including those to take home. No, Halloween with the Cejas means music, passion, drama, and dancing.

    We Got the Beet

    beetBurger.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    The avalanche of autumn produce in our markets is a sure sign that fall is here, notwithstanding some freak summer flashback days. Pumpkins, squashes, apples, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and beets of every color beckon with their earthy sweetness and sexy dark green leaves.

    Like everyone else I hated the canned beets of my childhood, but I've since grown to love the silken texture, rich flavor, and eye-popping colors of the real deal. Beet greens also rank among my favorite leafy green vegetables of all time, but only appear in good shape in fall and winter. Easy to clean and quick-cooking, they taste like a more tender, earthier version of chard. Since you typically get the beet greens for free with the beetroot, a bunch of beets is also one of the best produce deals out there.

    Halloween Treats

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    Trick or Treat? Well, treats of course! Whether you have kids or your a kid at heart, we have some fun recipes for you! So, set aside that store bought candy and get ready to taste some really wicked treats! Just click below to get your spook-tacular Halloween underway!

    Chocolate Candy Corn Truffles
    "Dark chocolate and bitter orange offset the sweetness of candy corn in these fun but fancy truffles."

    Double-Chocolate Caramel Apples
    "Indulge in the ultimate chocoholic experience by dipping the caramel apples in both semisweet and bittersweet chocolate."

    Pumpkin Patch Cakes
    "Petite pumpkin-shaped cakes. Dust with confectioners' sugar, finish them with colorful frostings, or pipe on smiling or scary jack-o'-lantern faces."

    Caramel-Dipped Apples
    "Delicious caramel apples...decorate with toffee bits, mini M&Ms, candy sprinkles, etc."

    What's your favorite treat to make for Halloween?

    Marinated Halibut on Radish Sprout and Fennel Salad

    fish_wine_country.jpgSubmitted by Viansa Winery & Vineyards

    Viansa's 2007 Chardonnay offers flavors of Apple, honeydew melon and toasty oak with a crisp clean finish. This wine was 50% barrel fermented and 50% stainless steel tank fermented. A deliciously fresh wine that pairs nicely with a cheese and fruit platter, grilled fish or light pasta dishes.  Drink now through 2010. Visit for recipes like "Pepper and Prosciutto Frittata".

    Red Wine Braised Lamb Shank

    submitted by

    pall.jpgby Melissa Close, Executive Chef of Palladio Restaurant

    Executive Chef Melissa Close has directed Palladio's kitchen since the fall of 2000, continually working to bring authentic Italian Cuisine to Central Virginia. Raised in Alabama, Melissa has been in the restaurant business since she was 16 years old and is a distinguished graduate from the New England Culinary Institute, Alumna of the Year in 2005. She has focused on Italian cuisine since working for award-winning chef Frank Stitt at Bottega Restaurant & Cafe located in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 90's. Her quest to refine her fluency in Italian cuisine led her to San Francisco's Rose Pistola Restaurant.

    mel-2.jpgAfter taking a hiatus to work for one of her early culinary mentors and fellow Charlottesville chef, Craig Hartman, at The Cliff House at Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado, she was drawn back to Italian cuisine when asked to take the Executive Chef's position at Palladio Restaurant. She has brought both national and international recognition for Palladio Restaurant through her constant striving to create menus with the freshest ingredients found locally and internationally. During the restaurant's annual closing in January, Melissa and her staff travel across the Atlantic to stage in some of Italy's finest establishments to expand their knowledge of Italian cuisine. Melissa and her staff's commitment for excellence has won her induction in the Chaine des Rotisseurs, and three invitations to create dinners at the world-renowned James Beard House in New York City, a great honor bestowed upon select chefs in the country.

    Butter is Forever

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    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Most ingredients go in and out of style, depending on the latest health craze or foodie fad. This doesn't of course affect their deliciousness, or deter the converted from continuing to use the items in our own cooking once they have fallen out of fashion with the rest of America.

    So I'm sure I wasn't the only one whose heart soared when Julie & Julia hit the silver screen this year, trumpeting the timeless and unparalleled glory of butter to audiences near and far. Sweet vindication! I almost cheered at the scene where Julie sets a pound of butter in front of Julia's portrait in the Smithsonian.

    Chef's Last Supper: Diavola Pizzeria-Salumeria

    By Courtney Cochran

    It's official: Thanks to the addition of yet another stellar eatery - Diavola Pizzeria-Salumeria - from the mega talented Dino Bugica, Alexander Valley's miniscule Geyserville may just be wine country's newest foodie mecca. Turns out the master salumist - who's already conquered cuisine more haute with his highly regarded Taverna Santi - wanted to create more casual fare in the vein of la cucina povera (literally, Italian peasant cuisine), comprised of a deliciously straightforward collection of panini, pizzas, salads and, yes, house cured salumi.

    Upcoming Event: Old Town Food & Wine Festival

    joeDavidAuthor.jpgGet ready to Swirl, Sip & Sizzle at the Old Food & Wine Festival in Alexandria, Virginia on October 10-11th from 11am to 6pm both days. Meet local winemakers and taste Virginia's small-batch artisan wines. Tasting admission also includes a souvenir glass and all exhibits and seminars on the Viking culinary stage.

    For the foodies, author Joe David, Gourmet Getaways (50 Top spots to cook and learn), will be on hand to share what he thinks makes your meals special. According to an excerpt from his book "One way to create an outstanding meal is to add the meal multiple layers of well-prepared ingredients that will enhance the essential goodness of the primary ingredient."  David, along with a local catering chef and a winemaker will have a wine and food tasting and food demonstration ~ Saturday, Oct. 10th at 1 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 11th at 3 p.m.

    What: Old Town Food & Wine Festival
    When: October 10 - 11, 2009; 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
    Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
    Tickets: Tasting Admission ($35), General Admission ($15)
    More Info:

    Pissaladiere (French Onion Pizza)

    kellerRecipe2.jpgChef Jennifer B. Keller (from the Keller Family)

    The aromas of cherry, raspberry, tangerine and minerals are in harmony in this lovely wine and once more show us the nature of the Keller Estate terroir. The lively acidity on the palate reminds us that this wine is meant to express the most delicate side of Pinot Noir, while making for a great wine to be paired with summer fare. To continue on this voyage to the south of France we share with you a family recipe for pissaladière, a flavorful onion flatbread that work beautifully as an appetizer to pair with our Rosé!

    Five Fun Things in Downtown Healdsburg

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    healdsburgmarket2.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    (1) Healdsburg Farmer's Market.
    One of the most famous farmers' markets in the Bay Area is mere steps from the square. Unusual heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers are only the beginning... local cheeses, meats, seafood, and breads round out the offerings and make it clear you are in a very delicious place.

    Healdsburg Farmer's Market
    Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings (check website for seasonal closure)
    North and Vine Streets, Healdsburg

    The Bread from Ipanema

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    cheesebread.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    A wave of anti-gluten sentiment is washing over wine country... everywhere you look, foods trumpet their gluten-free status, chefs dole out gluten-free recipes, and South American-Americans hawk their pão de queijo.

    I first encountered Brazilian cheese bread at the Napa's farmers' market, where Alex Fochi of Sampas was handing out samples of her company's miniature versions behind a huge GLUTEN FREE banner. She makes her pão de queijo the size of Swedish meatballs or Asian fish balls, perfect for wine tasting snacks... or really any kind of snack. The traditional tapioca flour in pão de queijo means there is no gluten in the finished product, although the "bread" is puffy and chewy and much like a tender pizza crust in snack form. Since the cheese is completely incorporated into the dough, every mouthful has a smooth, sensual texture worthy of the Brazilian title. Napa-based Sampas does both the traditional plain (cheese) version, as well as rotating weekly specials like roasted garlic or black olive.

    Perfect Patios

    williseafood.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    The heat is on! And few things are more glorious than summer dining alfresco in wine country. I offer only three recommendations here because there are far too many fabulous patios than I can do justice to in the space permitted.

    Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar just off Healdsburg's main square has a blissfully shaded garden patio on which to sample their delectable and different small plates. Tuna tartare--normally a snore-inducing must-skip item for me--goes in an entirely new and awesome direction here with cashews and slivered chilies in a cool coconut milk sauce, served atop crispy taro chips. Pumpkin seed-cilantro pesto takes bacon-wrapped scallops to new levels of delicious depravity. If it hits triple digits on the patio, move inside to the bar and have Bob the bartender (or one of his compatriots) cool you down with a cucumber martini.

    Summer Love

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Summer romances are as old as time, and like clockwork, I find myself falling in love every year around this time. I speak of course of fresh salmon.

    Nothing says summer more enticingly than a huge piece of barbecued wild salmon, charred and smoky from the grill, its succulent pearlescent flesh crying out to be devoured. Unless you consider sweet and toothsome and absolutely impossible-to-say-no-to grilled corn on the cob... ; or the intoxicating fragrance of farm-fresh heirloom tomatoes seducing the unwary into $30 salads... or hunks of cold watermelon so juicy that you need a napkin just to think about putting a piece in your mouth.

    Seasonal Snackage

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Harvest 2009 is underway in Napa, meaning that the harvest party season is officially upon us. And that of course calls for celebration.

    I am a staunch believer that when it comes to entertaining, simple is best. My favorite kind of dinner party is actually the all-appetizer sort, because (1) appetizers are typically the most interesting part of a meal; (2) the host can get all the preparation done in advance and never has to tear herself away from the party to clear dishes or prep the next course; (3) people can snack continuously all evening; and (4) sensational market-driven starters are a snap to make, especially this time of year.

    In Memoriam: Ubuntu's Strawberry Sofrito Pizza

    strawberry sofrito sandwich.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Napa recently experienced a sudden, tragic, and devastating loss... Ubuntu took its strawberry sofrito pizza off the dinner menu. In my humble opinion, this dish showcased all the best qualities of the restaurant: uber-local organic ingredients, creatively prepared, internationally inspired, and perfectly executed. Who else would think to combine Napa's famous summer strawberries with onions and garlic, slow cook the mixture in olive oil for three days to a sweet, savory, caramelized nirvana, and then spread it on a thin-crust pizza with fresh burrata and pine nuts? It was bliss, and I was in love.

    Halibut with Peach-Mango Salsa


    • 4 halibut fillets, 8 ounces each and 1 inch thick
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
    • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
    • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

    • 2 fresh peaches, skinned and cut into ¼" dice
    • 1 mango, peeled and cut into ¼" dice
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon crystallized ginger, finely minced
    • 1 tablespoon mint, finely minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
    • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
    • Dash of salt

    Lamb with Green Olives & Almonds

    lamb.JPGSubmitted by Louis M. Martini Winery

    Since 1933, the wines of Louis M. Martini have been crafted in the belief that wine is best enjoyed with food and among friends and family. The Martini family has been gathering and creating recipes for generations, recipes made with their rich, distinctive wines in mind.
    Here is one such recipe.

    • 8 loin lamb chops
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • ¼ cup Louis Martini cabernet sauvignon
    • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon. whole grain Dijon mustard
    • 2 teaspoon. Herbs de Provence
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • ½ teaspoon. paprika
    • ½ teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

    What to Drink With That Junk Food?

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    sherry and reeses.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    I recently attended a Women for Winesense event focused on pairing wines with ethnic cuisines, since most Americans these days eat some form of international cuisine as part of their weekly diet. Great idea, but what do you do when you're trying to rustle up a drink to go with your all-unnatural, luxuriously salty, and heart-stopping fatty favorite junk foods? For better or worse, American junk food is forever, and it seems more and more people are trying to find ways to enjoy wine with our nation's bad for the body, good for the soul contribution to international cuisine. Some fast food restaurants will soon be offering wine with your burgers and deep fried tortilla-wrapped gut bombs, so it's time for some experimentation. Here are some suggestions to try.

    Crab Cakes with Sherry Mayonnaise

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    recipeRodStrongCrabCakes.jpgRecipe provided by Syrah Bistro chef/owner Josh Silvers from the Down Home : Downtown cookbook, with Jeff Mall from Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar and published by Rodney Strong Vineyards.

    Wine Pairing: Rodney Strong Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay

    Take a moment to enjoy the good life. Sipping a glass of Rodney Strong's refreshingly crisp and luscious Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay only get's sweeter when paired with it's perfect compliment-scrumptious crab cakes.

    Redd-y for Action

    redds.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    I'd heard that Redd's bar has quite a scene, but I couldn't quite believe it until I showed up on a Monday night to standing room only. The two guys next to me were trying to pick up their to-go order (and whoever else would tag along), the newlyweds on my other side were toasting themselves and making lifelong friends with anyone who'd hold still long enough, and Patrick the St. Louis sommelier was charming his way into everyone's evening with his seductive beverage list and bedroom eyes.

    A Cheese For All Seasons

    By Deirdre Bourdet

    Shopping for cheese can test the endurance of even the most food-obsessed.  The typical modern cheese counter has so many delicious options from so many interesting places, with flavors and textures and shapes all over the map.  And yet, when it comes down to identifying the cheese that is always in my fridge  at home, the cheese I can eat straight out of the packaging and also serve gussied up with fresh herbs and truffle honey when company unexpectedly drops by, the choice is surprisingly easy.  Fresh chèvre is my go-to.


    Inconceivable: Neal Gottlieb and Three Twins Ice Cream

    nealandicecream.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    It is time to shine the harsh light of investigative journalism on the mysterious Three Twins operation and their "inconceivably delicious" ice cream.

    First shocking revelation: the three Twins are not genetically related, nor do two of them share a body. Neal and Carl Gottlieb are just twin brothers from Marin, and Liz is Carl's wife (and another twin). Neal is the tall, curly-haired twin who started and runs the business. Carl let Neal live with him and Liz as the ice cream dream was taking flight, thus inspiring the company's inconceivable name. (FYI, Carl also inspired an unofficial, off-the-menu sundae that involves a great deal of chocolate sauce... ask for it at the San Francisco store.)

    Huitlacoche: It's What's For Dinner

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    The Border huitlacoche quesadilla plate.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    I am a truffle fiend. And while not technically a truffle from the Tuber genus, huitlacoche--aka the Mexican corn truffle--definitely has enough funky, truffly sex appeal to make me happy. (Plus, its other English name is corn smut, which makes me smirk every time I hear it.)

    Mexicans consider huitlacoche a delicacy and eat it in a variety of dishes, but most American corn farmers do their best to keep it from showing up in their crops. Huitlacoche is the black, squishy, and disgusting-looking tumescent manifestation of a plant fungus on corn kernels. Not coincidentally, perhaps, the most common restaurant preparations involve hiding the huitlacoche from view... in tamales, quesadillas, soups. I once had an amazing pizza in Mexico that proudly kept the evil-looking fungus front and center--but honestly if there hadn't been neon orange and green zucchini blossoms sharing the stage, I'm not sure I could have eaten it every day like I did.

    A Food & Wine Odyssey in Tri-Valley, California

    food_wine.jpegTri-Valley, California is a haven of artisan vintners and undiscovered culinary talent.  Home to the Livermore Valley Wine Country, Tri-Valley is an affordable and authentic destination.

    EAT: Passionate Chef's Pair with Passionate Winemakers

    Attend a winemaker's dinner at one of Tri-Valley's restaurants. Local chef's are very passionate good food and wine, many feature regular winemaker dinners, including the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards. Nestled in the Livermore Valley Wine Country, the restaurant's Executive Chef, Arthur Wall works with fifth Generation winemaker, Karl Wente to create an exquisite menu.

    The Locals Know Where To Dine in Monterey

    Marie Galbo

    Business brought me to Monterey; my stomach brought me to the Monterey Fish House.

    I have only been to Monterey a couple of times so I stopped a few places and asked some locals for recommendations on where to eat with the remark "I don't need fluff & puff, just want good food".   Nearly every person mentioned Monterey Fish House.  I set out to find the location and turns out the fish house was right around the corner from where I was staying at Lone Oak Lodge.   

    I Nduja Tonight

    boccalone nduja.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Hot summer nights call for sexy music and spicy company... enter nduja, everybody's favorite spreadable salame. Assertive, tender, musky, and exotic, it's everything you're looking for, and you can spread it on a cracker too.

    Nduja, pronounced "en-DOO-yah"(not "NOOD-jah," as I was hoping) is a traditional cured pork salumi product that originates from Calabria, the "toe" region of Italy. The name derives from the French andouille, which is another type of spiced pork sausage bearing only a faint resemblance to nduja.

    A domestic version of this Calabrian classic is now making Americans swoon, thanks to Chris Cosentino (of Incanto restaurant fame) and his Oakland-based artisanal charcuterie business, Boccalone. Cosentino's nduja features a unique, almost rillettes-like texture, hints of sour orange and smoke, plus plenty of heat from a variety of chilies that also lend the meat a fiery red hue. The salted meat and spices are fermented, lightly smoked, and dehydrated only enough to firm up the exterior casing, leaving the inside enticingly soft.

    Birmingham Eggs

    BirrminghamEggs.jpgSubmitted by the Birmingham Bed & Breakfast
    Nancy and Jerry Fischman, and Kathy Pappas, chefs

    • 1 cup half and half
    • 4 eggs (1 egg per serving)
    • ½ cup all-purpose flour
    • ¼ teaspoon dried basil
    • 1/8-teaspoon garlic power
    • 1/8-teaspoon pepper
    • 1/8-teaspoon salt
    • 4 white onions, finely diced
    • ½ cup sliced black olives
    • ¾ cup diced ham, Canadian bacon or cooked chicken sausage (may be omitted)
    • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese (I used a blend that has asiago in it)
    • ½ cup diced tomato for topping

    Wine Country Personality: Jon Mortimer

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    jopnb.jpgEarth Meets Ocean:
    Modern comfort food from the Sonoma Coast

    My life long journey with food began on the east coast. Charles Mortimer, my grandfather, was a true pioneer in the food manufacturing industry, but my food adventure has always followed a different map. At a young age I learned to love a great meal and the process by which it was attained. While enjoying the dining aspect, service and trying new flavors my thoughts would always wander to where the ingredients came from. What we were enjoying at the table never had as much an impact as picking and shelling peas with my grandmother earlier that afternoon.

        In the subsequent decades to those early food memories I found myself perpetually moving west. Across the fertile plains of the Rocky Mountains I learned of the fruitful bounties of the rich, irrigated soils. I found great respect for the majestic animals that roamed the monochromatic hills and boned many trout from the cool, clear streams. All wonderful, yet still there existed an incognizant limit to my culinary dreams and I always longed for a place where you didn't have to perpetually out-think the food as a cook. 

        In what amounted to an almost unexplainable fervor in a breathless week's time as if irresistibly pulled by a cosmic magnet my family headed west to lands end in the greatest food continent on the blue planet. It was the blue I'd been missing, teaming with life and crying out to be married with the fruits of the farmer's labors. The sense of place with which the wine epitomizes the food on the Sonoma Coast is a combination rarely experienced with such seamlessness. It is all so clear sitting on the coast at Timber Cove with the fertile, mineral rich soils behind me and ocean stirring before's time to capture Earth and ocean in a pan and use all the respect of a lifetime with food and capture it on a plate.

    Cheeseburger Paradise

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    cheeseburger.jpegBy Courtney Cochran

    The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board works hard to get its message across (and we're pretty sure it has something to do with cheese). So hard, in fact, that it's created a delectable organization called, fittingly, the Cheese & Burger Society. A quick troll around the society's expertly designed micro site reveals its core mission: To celebrate - in vivid color and alongside expert recipes - "the greatest cheeseburgers ever made." Amen.

    Egg on your face

    pizza_egg.jpegBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Has anyone actually used this expression in the last thirty years? Kind of a shame it's not more commonly heard, as I am a staunch believer that we could always use more ways to say we look foolish or ridiculous, and more opportunities to eat dishes with egg on them. Toast and salads are just the beginning--in Australia I hear they top hamburgers with a fried egg, like a cooked riff on steak tartare. In France, and now increasingly here as well, you see pizzas crowned with runny-yolked eggs. If you've not yet experienced this combination, your life is empty and meaningless. Get thee to a pizzeria immediately.

    Salty Dreams Are Made Of This

    Chocolate Budino with sea salt and pine nut crust.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    Salty-sweet desserts are catching on like they're going out of style and I couldn't be happier. Once limited to French fleur de sel caramels, this delightful taste sensation has now exploded into salted ice creams, truffle fillings, and chocolate desserts near you.

    I adore Chocolatier Blue in Berkeley because Chris Blue puts tons of Camargue sea salt into every one of his creations. From pistachio to sweet corn to deep dark chocolate truffles, the flavors pop and send your salivary glands into overdrive. Needless to say, his peanut brittle is also beyond compare--ethereally crispy, buttery, salty, nutty, and completely addicting.

    Bolani Madness

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    bolini.jpegBy Deirdre Bourdet

    You have likely seen the Bolani and Sauce guy if you have ever visited a farmer's market in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the human whirlwind dishing out sample after sample of stuffed flatbreads and colorful sauces to every passerby within reach. He is unstoppable, insatiable, hell-bent on feeding you all his favorite combinations before he allows you to step away from the booth. Have you tried the pumpkin bolani topped with garlic-mint cheese and sun-dried tomato pesto? Or the spinach bolani with hummus and smoky eggplant pesto? Curried lentil and sweet jalapeno? He knows that it is humanly impossible not to like at least four of their ten condiments, and that once you have found those four, you can't walk away without buying them, and a package or two of the irresistible veggie-stuffed bolanis themselves.

    Spicy Asian Salad

    asian_salad.JPGSubmitted by Gallo Winery

    The Gallo family believes that one of the reasons they have stayed strong as a family business for over 75 years is their love of sitting down together to share good food, wine and conversation. Many meals have been enjoyed, some from old Italian family recipes and some more contemporary Californian in style.  Here is one they hope you enjoy...


    For the dressing:
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon Thai hot chili paste, or to taste
    • 1/4 cup Thai fish sauce
    • 1/3 cup warm water
    • 2 tablespoons lime juice
    • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

    Pizza and Pinot

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    estate.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

    A $10 dinner with wine in a wine country restaurant is like a unicorn--beautiful, magical, fun to think about, but totally a mythical beast... or at least that used to be the case.  I can now say with certainty that such an animal exists, every night, AND you can sit outside by a fireplace to enjoy it.  

    Estate is Sondra Bernstein's latest restaurant project in the old General Daughter's location just a few blocks west of the Sonoma square. The restaurant offers up some seriously well-priced California-inflected Italian cuisine, and the Pizza and Pinot special is perhaps the best example of the restaurant's bicultural offerings.  Every night, and all day Saturday and Sunday, the bar menu features your choice of pizza with a glass of featured pinot grigio or pinot noir... for ten dollars. Total.  

    Coup de Coeur à Bordeaux

    La Tupina cepes and Fronsac.jpgby Deirdre Bourdet

    What, who, or where is a must-see on a trip to Bordeaux? According to a former colleague of mine, a cozy little restaurant called La Tupina. A quick perusal of their website revealed that this 30 year old + establishment prides itself on simple, classic bordelais specialties, prepared with the finest local ingredients and a hefty dose of nostalgic passion. When I read that French president Nicolas Sarkozy had also lunched there on his recent visit to the city, I figured there really was something to this place, and cut out early from Vinexpo's lunacy to see for myself.

    Incredibly, on a day when 50,000 wine industry members had overtaken the city, I walked in without a reservation at the height of the lunch hour and scored a prime table on their terrace. Even more incredibly, I also scored a very amiable and helpful waiter... yes, they do exist in France.

    Indulgence Within Reach

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    bounty_hunter_winebar.jpegby Deirdre Bourdet

    Far more could be said about the positive aspects of the recession than would fit on this blog, so I'll limit this discussion to some of the incredible discounts available these days on Napan indulgences.

    One of my personal favorites is the all-day Monday happy hour at Bounty Hunter, where the entire stable of "house" brands is two-for-one by the glass... including the Waypoint Vineyards Beckstoffer/To Kalon wines, normally $20 a pop.  If you can make it in between 3 and 6 p.m.  on the other weekdays, the same deal applies.  Consider adding a "mini" barbecue sampler plate heaped with pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and coleslaw to your tab, and you've basically got dinner and two glasses of killer wine for $35.

    Deirdre's Top 5 Oxbow Market Snacks

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    cupcake.jpgby Deirdre Bourdet

    For those of you who love food emporiums as much as I do, here is my list of the top five things to hit on an eating romp through Napa's Oxbow Public Market.  Warning: may be habit forming.

    What's On Your Grill . . .

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    Summer is here and that can only mean one thing (okay, maybe a couple) . . .

    First - Throw as much as you can on the grill because who wants to slave all day cooking and cleaning in the hot kitchen?! 

    Second: Your kids will tire of hot dogs and hamburgers every night for lunch and dinner so why not try out some new things on the grill. The banana and nutella panini sounds delicious for a snack or dessert!

    Third: There is more to life than just grilling meat!  Vegetables, fruits, bread and a slew of other things can be grilled too!

    That being said - check out some of the recipes below. Let us know how they turn out and don't forget to pair them with wine!  White Wines for Summer or Best Wines for BBQ. Happy Grilling!

    USDA: Community Gardening Is Cool!

    By Courtney Cochran

    The Obama administration is putting its resources where Americans' mouths are, so to speak, advocating sweeping changes in the way our nation perceives, grows and consumes food.  To wit, healthy food advocates scored a symbolic victory in February, when newly appointed secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack took a jackhammer to the pavement outside his headquarters to create his own organic "people's garden," also unveiling plans to create a sustainable landscape on the grounds of the long-stodgy USDA. 

    Burn, Baby, Burn

    A Sommelier Sheds Light on the Best Wines for BBQ
    by Courtney Cochran

    Firing, roasting, and grilling are decidedly du rigueur during the summer months, but finding wines that work well with this tricky fare can be a challenge. Just as shining a spotlight on an actor onstage brings her features into focus for an audience, these cooking methods serve to concentrate the flavors of whatever's being cooked, necessitating a wine with both strength and personality to stand up to the food.

    Read on for the low-down on some of the more common characteristics of flame-cooked fare and how to track down the perfect wines to pair with these traits.

    Paradise Blue Cheese Baklava

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    baklava.jpegSubmitted by Chef Kelly Wangard of Paso Robles Inn Steakhouse

    A savory interpretation of a classically sweet pastry this version of Baklava combines the rich flavor of Blue Cheese with walnuts for an amazing, out of this world treat.

    • 1 box phyllo dough
    • 3 pounds Hook's Paradise blue cheese, Gorgonzola, or blue cheese
    • 1 pound butter
    • 5 cups walnuts, toasted
    • 1 cup sugar

    B.R. Cohn's Walnut Orange Cake

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    200ml-MandarinOrange-tn.jpgSubmitted by B.R. Cohn chef Sherri Hewitt

    A simple, slightly crunchy cake recipe. With flavors of walnuts and orange this is a great Summertime or anytime desert. Enjoy!

    Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings


    • Nonstick olive oil spray
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
    • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel
    • 1/2 cup B.R. Cohn Mandarin Orange Olive Oil
    • Powdered sugar

    Cervena Venison Shabu-Shabu

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    recipe_Venison_Silverado.jpgSubmitted by The Grill at Silverado - Silverado Resort
    Executive Chef - Peter Pahk

    The Grill at Silverado, is a one-of-a-kind Napa Valley restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and bar appetizers. This restaurant in Napa Valley features Wine Country Cuisine with an Asian flair, emphasizing fresh and sustainable products. Chef Pahk's Cervena Venison Shabu-Shabu won Cervena Venison Dish of the Year 2008.

    Build a Better Burger

    sutterBurger.jpgAre you the grill master of the cul de sac? Do your burgers evoke sighs of satisfaction and gushing praise from even the most jaded of picnic attendees? Do you dream of tender patties sizzling on the grill? Answer yes to any of these questions, and you just might have a chance at $50,000 in one of the nation's biggest and best cook-offs, The Build a Better Burger contest.

    Oh sure, just about anyone who's lit a charcoal grill thinks they've got the secret to deliciously delightful burgers: onion soup mix, hickory chips, homemade relish, or perfectly grilled buns. Amateurs all, compared to the folks who've re-invented burgers from the ground up at the Sutter Home Winery competition that takes place each year in Napa, CA.

    Winners in past years have had recipes ranging from simple portabella mushroom burgers, and a Greek-inspired burger with lamb meat, roasted eggplant and feta cheese, to Hawaiian tuna burgers with onion and lime salsa. Definitely not your everyday burgers.

    The competition is already open (April 1 - July 29, 2009) so you better get a move on if you plan on submitting your top secret perfect burger concoction. CLICK HERE to enter. Ten finalists  will be selected to cook their creations at the Sutter Home winery next year, in addition to being featured on the Food Network. The pressure builds in the timed cook-off, where contestants are challenged to create their recipes in front of judges, cameras, press and other finalists for the $50,000 grand prize, or the $10,000 Best Alternative Burger category.

    If you like to eat burgers rather than cook them, take the Burger Personality test and see what type you are, get the best burger recipe to match, along with a wine pairing suggestion.


    Submitted by the Hadsten House Inn and Spa

    At the Hadsten House our goal is offer comfort food with friendly country club style service where regulars are treated like family. Our dishes are all intended to wow guests with the best burger in the Santa Barbara Wine Country, outstanding short ribs or this outstanding pasta dish each intended to make you want to become a regular guest.

    Recipe: Spinach Pasta Sheets w/ Sauteed Shrimp & Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce

    Chef's Name: Aaron Dixon

    Wine Pairing:
    Artiste Winery "Cafe Noir" 2008

    Cheap Burger no More?

    By Robert Farmer

    Can somebody tell me what happened to Babe's Burgers? Actually, I think the official name was Babe's Burgers and Franks but everybody just called it Babe's. It's the little ramshackle shop along the highway (Hwy. 121, to be exact) that neatly ties together Napa and Sonoma valleys. You know the place. Or maybe you don't. That was the beauty of Babe's, it was beloved by some, completely off the radar for others. It was the kind of place that maintained an "insider" vibe no matter what restaurant was currently the talk of the valley - either valley. It was easily blown by when cruising along the Highway in the Carneros District, bouncing from one winery to the next.

    Taking It to the Streets

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    letruck.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

    Here's a dare: Sidle into a bar in San Francisco's Mission District and ask a patron to name her favorite food purveyor in town.  Given recent trends, she's just as likely to respond, "The Bacon Dog Cart ", "The Tamale Lady" or "The Crème Brulee Guy" as to finger a member of the city's restaurant royalty such as Zuni Café or Boulevard. Why? Because, you see, street is the new chic when it comes to dining out in SF, a trend that - so long as the economy continues its lackluster performance - will only gain still more strength.

    Twitter Tastes Worth Following: Culinary Sherpas

    sherpas.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

    According to reputable sources, Twitter - that fashionable new medium for micro-blogging that my parents keep asking me about and that I keep - ahem - trying to get the hang of - has now officially become a "major source in breaking news" , so I thought it only fitting that I begin scouring the Twittersphere for hot new tips on food to report here. And so - with no further ado! - fasten your seatbelts for forthcoming features on top food Tweeters and their fare.

    Napa and the Bean Stalk


    These beauties are a different fruit of the vine

    By Laurel Miller

    As Seen in Napa Sonoma Magazine

    Tell the guests you've invited to your next dinner party that you'll be serving eye of the goat, and you may get some last-minute cancellations. However, when you explain that you've cooked a round, tan-and-brown-speckled heirloom bean with a rich, full flavor and a meaty pot liquor (the residual cooking liquid), they may think you're a little odd, but will probably still come.

    Read More

    CLICK HERE - To order your personal copy of the Napa Sonoma Magazine

    Gallo Spaghetti and Meatballs

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    spaghetti.JPGSubmitted by Gallo Winery

    The Gallo family believes that one of the reasons they have stayed strong as a family business for over 75 years is their love of sitting down together to share good food, wine and conversation.  Many meals have been enjoyed, some from old Italian family recipes and some more contemporary Californian in style. This recipe was created by one of the first employees at the Winery and has been a favorite of the Gallo family for years.

    • Spaghetti, 1 lb.
    • Tomato Paste, 4 cans (6oz. ea.)
    • Plump Tomatoes, 2 cans (14.5oz. ea.)
    • Ground Round Steak, 2 lbs.
    • Ground Pork, ½ lb.
    • 2 Eggs
    • Gallo Family Vineyards Frei Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 1 cup
    • Garlic Cloves, Sliced, 4 each
    • Parsley, Chopped, 4 Tbs.
    • Cheese, Parmesan
    • Basil
    • Water, 1 can (14.5 oz)
    • Salt, 1 ½ tsp
    • Garlic Salt, 1 ½ tsp
    • Black Pepper, ½ tsp

    Outstanding In the Field, Indeed

    By Courtney Cochran

    With all things locavore taking off faster than you can say "farm fresh," it comes as no surprise that today's diners are itching to get closer to their food sources.  And though most restaurateurs are hard pressed to literally bring the farm to the table (though this phrase gets tossed around far more often than it should), it turns out we CAN in fact take the table to the farm.

    100-Mile Diet Headaches

    locovore.jpegBy Courtney Cochran

    There's a reason they call it the 100-Mile Diet "Challenge": It's not easy eating local. Ever since "locavore" became the Word of the Year for the Oxford American Dictionary in 2007, the movement that champions consuming only locally produced foods has skyrocketed to the fore of our national consciousness, even scoring a much-replayed send-up by Robin Williams on Law & Order: SVU . ; But as the hype wanes and reality sets in, a backlash is brewing as would-be adherents struggle to stick to a diet that's long on effort and - more often than many proponents would care to admit - often short on gustatory reward .

    Dungeness Crab

    chandonRecipe.jpgSubmitted by: Perry Hoffman, Chef de Cuisine
                              étoile at Domaine Chandon

    Dungeness Crab has everything a chef loves - sweet, salty, rich, but also light - all at the same time. An incredibly versatile ingredient, crab has the enviable ability to work well with many other components. Chef Hoffman prefers to pair this dish with étoile Brut.

    Eat, Drink, and Meet Leslie


    Popular television host Leslie Sbrocco invites wine and food lovers to share a toast

    By Bonnie Wach

    As Seen in Napa Sonoma Magazine

    Over the last decade, wine guru Leslie Sbrocco, host of the popular KQED television food show Check, Please! Bay Area, has promoted cheap champagne, championed screw caps, and proudly paired fine wines with everything from Rice Krispies Treats and Twinkies to Chinese takeout.

    "Wine should be comfort, not stress," says the Petaluma resident, who is also the author of Wine for Women and The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide. "It's simply fermented grape juice. People shouldn't get uptight about it. I try to teach people that there's never any wrong answer with wine."

    Read More

    CLICK HERE - To order your personal copy of the Napa Sonoma Magazine

    recipeDryCreekKitchen.jpgSubmitted by: Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen
    Chef: Les Goodman

    Wine Pairing Suggestion:
    Papapietro Perry Winery 2005 "Peter's Vineyard" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

    Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen, located in Hotel Healdsburg, serves an ever-changing menu celebrating Sonoma County's fresh seasonal ingredients and wines. Each March, Chef Palmer hosts Pigs and Pinot, a two day festival of spectacular food and wine.  This dish is a tribute to Pigs and Pinot and is paired with this year's winning Pinot Noir.

    Hotel Healdsburg
    25 Matheson Street
    Healdsburg, CA 95448

    Dry Creek Kitchen
    Hotel Healdsburg
    317 Healdsburg Avenue
    Healdsburg, CA 95448

    Gourmet novelist


    Author Nadia Gordon stages her series of mystery tales in a fictionalized Napa Valley

    By Peter Crooks

    As Seen in Napa Sonoma Magazine

    In the new novel Lethal Vintage, chef Sunny McCoskey is tossed into a murder mystery involving a billionaire, his mistress, and a cast of winemakers and foodies. Plus, McCoskey's restaurant just received an overabundant shipment of salmon that needs to sell that day. What's a chef (and amateur detective) to do?

    Getting to the clever whodunit twist at the end of Lethal Vintage is just part of the fun in the delicious potboiler. Along the way, readers are treated to a virtual tour of Wine Country, with a flurry of references to real and fictional restaurants and wineries dropped into the quickly turning pages.

    To Read More, Click Here.

    Yelp Lets Restos Bite Back

    best_of_yelp.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

    Mega popular - and controversial - user review site announced last week that it will begin allowing businesses reviewed on the site to publicly respond to reviews left by customers. This is big news for businesses (including restaurants, who comprise the lion's share of spots reviewed on the site) who feel they've been unjustly maligned by unsatisfied customers - and big news as well to users who would prefer to keep the site completely free of business feedback.

    Scrambled Eggs And Chardonnay

    CDV-174.jpgSubmitted by Chef Felipe Barragan of Chateau de Vie Bed and Breakfast & Vineyards

    Rumor would have it that many moons ago when the Napa Valley was just a hand full of eager young vintners, a weekly gathering of the minds would come together and share in a breakfast of Scrambled Eggs and Napa Valley Chardonnay. Here you find the only breakfast that Chateau de Vie so daringly pairs a glass of golden delight.

    • 12 large eggs
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • ½ cup whole milk
    • 2 tbsp canola oil
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Tarragon
    • 1 tsp black pepper
    • 6 Slices or pieces of your favorite Brea Cheese.

    Squab with Cherries and Foie

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    squabandcherriestwo.jpgSubmitted by Chef Christopher Kostow of
     The Restaurant at Meadowood


    • 1 whole squab
    • 3 ½ tablespoons Darjeeling tea
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 2 cups salt
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • 4 bay leaves
    • 1 liter duck fat

    Duck Breast with Blueberry-Cabernet Sauce

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    duckblueberry.jpgSubmitted by Louis M. Martini Winery

    Since 1933, the wines of Louis M. Martini have been crafted in the belief that wine is best enjoyed with food and among friends and family.  The Martini family has been gathering and creating recipes for generations, recipes made with their rich, distinctive wines in mind.
    Here is one such recipe.


    • 4 duck breast halves
    • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
    • ½ cup cabernet sauvignon
    • 2- 1/2 cups fat free chicken broth
    • 2 teaspoons powdered ginger
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon softened butter
    • 1 teaspoon flour

    Napa Smith Beer Battered Fish and Chips

    fish and chips.jpgSubmitted by The Meritage Resort and Spa

    The new Friday tradition at The Meritage Resort is Fish 'n Chips.  Chef Laurent is using seasonal cold water fish and Napa's own Napa Smith Brewery Beer to create the perfect batter.  Every Friday morning, Laurent brings the freshest fish available from Kanaola Seafood at Oxbow Market, depending on the season, to make the perfect Fish 'n Chips.

    Grilled Seared Cinnamon and Cumin Pork Roast

    Pork final.jpgSubmitted by Timber Cove Inn ~ Sonoma

    Wine Country Chef Jon Mortimer is the mastermind behind Alexander's, the Sonoma Coast culinary soiree that overlooks panoramic seascapes at the attractive Timber Cove Inn. Inspired by local ingredients and sensory Sonoma bliss, this radiant dish offers exotic flavor via local pork and the unique collaboration of cinnamon, coriander and cayenne pepper.

    Smoked Tomato and Chipotle Stew

    Submitted by Timber Cove Inn ~ Sonoma

    8 smoked Roma tomatoes (cut in half and smoked for ½ hour, or fresh tomatoes if desired)


    • 1 large Walla Walla sweet onion
    • 2 oz. Vegetable oil
    • 2 to 4 Chipotle peppers (chopped)
    • 1 zucchini (diced)
    • 1 yellow squash (diced)
    • 2 stalks celery (cut on a bias)
    • 2 small carrots (peeled and cut on a bias)
    • 1-cup pork stock (use chicken if unavailable)
    • 1-cup tomato juice
    • Ground black pepper to taste
    • Kosher salt to taste
    • 20 sprigs fresh cilantro

    Rethinking the Power Lunch

    By Courtney Cochran

    In a down economy, a lunch invitation is a valuable thing. Implicit behind said invitation is "I will pay - I am inviting you, so it's my treat." So when my sister invited me to lunch downtown today, I was thrilled (good company and a free meal - I can hardly think of a more pleasant prospect). But when I stepped gleefully though the doors of Sam's - an institutional eatery in San Francisco's financial district known as a hot spot for lunch time power players - I was floored by what I saw: a nearly-empty restaurant, nary a power player in sight.

    Braised Hunter Style Chicken

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    Braised Hunter Style Chicken.jpg
    Submitted by Chad Hendrickson, Executive Chef The Hess Collection

    At The Hess Collection, Executive Chef Chad Hendrickson utilizes an organic garden outside the kitchen, and purchases from local farmers and vendors to create fresh seasonal recipes to pair with Hess Collection wines.


    • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
    • 1 ea. Chickens cut in 8 pieces
    • 1 cup Porcini mushrooms, sliced
    • 1½ cup Onions, diced
    • 2 ea. Garlic clove, minced
    • 2 Tbsp. Tomato paste
    • 1 ea 14 oz can stewed tomatoes
    • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme, finely chopped
    • 1 ea. Bay leaf
    • to taste Salt and Pepper
    • 1 Tbsp. Italian Parsley, chopped
    • to taste lemon juice

    Guess Who Sports the Top Toque in the White House?

    hail-to-the-chef-01-af.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

    As is tradition, the Obamas appointed no shortage of new cabinet members and White House staffers when now-President Barack assumed the executive office earlier this year, though one important post went unaltered:  that of White House chef.  Turns out that Cristeta Comerford, a young Filipina mother, has run the White House kitchen since she assumed the post of top toque under Laura Bush - and the Obamas are set on keeping her. 

    Press Release: Saint Patrick's Day at Hurley's Restaurant

    Yountville, CA - Napa Valley Irishman Bob Hurley is getting ready to celebrate his own brand of Saint Patrick's Day at Hurley's Restaurant & Bar in Yountville. When March 17th rolls around most people come for the corned beef and cabbage - cured six weeks in house. But Chef Hurley also plans to get back to his roots in County Kerry and showcase what the Emerald Isle does best despite the short summers and rocky soil. He feels that the secret and beauty of Irish cookery lies in its simplicity. The menu, written in Gaelic, will feature Breac Bácáilte (whole baked trout with cockles, mussels, new potatoes and pearl onions), Gaelic Stú (Irish stew), Brat Caoireola (Irish farmhouse soup with peas, barley, carrots, onions and lamb), Ciste Visce Beatha (Irish whiskey cake) and of course his own corned beef and cabbage and more. Classic Irish potato preparations of the day will be Champ (mashed potatoes with melted butter and green onions) and Boxty (Irish potato pancake). For those who can't get enough of the restaurant's favorite dishes the regular menu will also be available.

    Eggsibitionist™ Gifting This Easter

    By Courtney Cochran

    When I hosted a "Salty & Sweet" wine and food tasting in San Francisco last spring, I sought out products for sampling whose sophistication and good taste was matched by sense of whimsy. Hotel Chocolat - a decidedly design-forward luxury chocolatier with a penchant for capricious concoctions - fit the bill perfectly, a fact evidenced by the sheer delight with which many of my guests greeted the UK-based company's Chocolate Dipping Adventure kit, a centerpiece at the event.

    Breakfast at Bella Villa Messina

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    bellaVillaMessina.jpgBella Villa Messina is located in Sonoma Wine Country. They boast 5 rooms that feature goose-down comforters, fine linens, private baths, TVs with VCRs, Jacuzzi tubs, fireplaces and a superb Sonoma breakfast prepared each morning.

    They submitted two recipes (Spinach Frittata or Hawaiian French Toast) that you can either try at home or perhaps taste when you make reservations at the villa!

    Ferrari-Carano: Food & Wine Take Center Stage

    ferrariCarano.jpgSonoma County is famous for their year-round abundance of produce. Each season Ferrari-Carano's culinary gardens offer Rhonda Carano's inspiration for new and delicious recipes as well as tried and true recipes from her Italian ancestry. With farmers' markets spreading across the country and people's desire for fresh fruit and vegetables, it's becoming easier for today's cook to create fresh and diverse menus that are not only delicious, but also nutritious.

    This ever-changing bounty of ingredients makes entertaining fun and pleasing for every palate when paired with the perfect wine. Below are two such recipes...

    Grilled Lamb Chops with Wine-Mint Marinade
    Wine Pairing: Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon

    Pasta Butterflies with Asparagus and Snowpeas
    Wine Pairing: Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay

    Ferrari-Carano also offers several other recipes online. Or use their Wine and Food Pairing Guide to assist you in selecting the ideal wine for all your entertaining needs.

    Pasta Butterflies w/ Asparagus & Snowpeas

    Provided by Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery

    Wine Pairing:
    Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay, Alexander Valley

    16-18 first course servings

    • 6 large eggs
    • 12 oz. tomato paste
    • 1 Tbsp salt
    • 2 lbs all-purpose flour
    • Cornmeal, as needed
    • Parmesan Cream Sauce (recipe follows)

    Combine eggs, tomato paste and salt in food processor and blend. Mix in eggs and blend till very well combined. Add flour slowly, and continue to mix until dough is formed into a ball. Take dough out and knead a little, then let rest.

    Roll dough to thinnest possible setting on pasta machine. Lay strips of dough on a surface lightly dusted with cornmeal. Let rest, uncovered for 10 mins. Cut 1" x 2" rectangles, with a serrated hand wheel. Pinch in the center of each rectangle to form the "butterfly" shape, making sure the pinched center adheres.

    Parmesan Cream Sauce:
    • 1 lb asparagus
    • 2 oz unsalted butter
    • 1/3 lb. snow peas, trimmed
    • 1-1/4 qt heavy cream
    • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    Trim and peel asparagus, cut on bias into 1" pieces. Blanch asparagus and drain and dry. Melt butter in sauté pan and add snowpeas and asparagus, sauté, tossing often until vegetables are tender. Add cream and cheese. Bring to boil and reduce until cream is slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with pasta immediately.

    Grilled Lamb Chops w/ Wine-Mint Marinade

    Recipe provided by Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery

    Wine Pairing Suggestion
    Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

    • 2 med. garlic cloves
    • 1 med. shallot
    • 1 Tbsp finely chopped mint
    • 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
    • 3 Tbsp dry red wine
    • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
    • 1 tsp mint jelly (or honey)
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • Freshly-ground black pepper
    • 8 lamb chops, or rack of lamb
    Finely chop garlic, shallot, mint and rosemary in food processor. Add mustard, red wine, olive oil and pepper, until blended. Rub on meat. Store in plastic Ziploc baggie.

    Prepare barbecue and grill according to your likeness. Serve immediately.

    Garnish with grilled peaches with Gorgonzola crumbled on top.

    Pigs & Pinot: The Perfect Pairing

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    ***Find 2010 info HERE. Event is March 19-20, 2010!***

    HEALDSBURG, CA - Don't miss this year's Fourth Annual Celebration of Pigs & Pinot 2009 event, March 20-21, 2009 at Hotel Healdsburg. The weekend will include a series of intimate dining and educational events hosted by renowned Chef Palmer.

    Tickets can be purchased directly online and there are several lodging packages available at Hotel Healdsburg which include access to all Pigs & Pinot events, including exclusive access to the Gala Dinner. But space is limited; so make sure you make advance reservations now!

    Trans Fat Totalitarians?

    By Courtney Cochran

    Last July California made headlines when it became the first state to ban - by 2010, that is - the use of artery-clogging trans fats in restaurants.  Hailed by nutrition advocates as a dramatic and positive step towards the betterment of public health, the Schwarzenegger-backed legislation has stirred up vehement opposition from some state residents who call the ban an infringement on their basic civil liberties.

    PRESS Restaurant - Spring Specials

    pressRestaurantSteak.jpgST. HELENA, CA - Dine at PRESS Restaurant this Spring and enjoy their featured specials and limited time offers.


    Four course dinner served family style
    See website on Sundays for menu
    $55 per person

    *Visit online to view weekly Monday Night Dinner Menu*

    Free corkage and 50% off entire Napa Valley featured wine list until May 1, 2009

    Only at the PRESS bar
    $10 Blue Plate Special that changes daily Call daily for chef's special selections

    PRESS Restaurant
    587 St. Helena Highway South
    Call 707-967-0550 for reservations

    Cooking with Ice Wine?

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    icewine.jpgWhether a self proclaimed gourmet cook or one in hiding, you most likely know the benefits of cooking with wine and (in imitation of Julia Child) consider drinking wine while cooking a must.

    I myself am no stranger to using a little Zin in spaghetti sauce, Chardonnay with sauteed mushrooms and butter, and scores of other wines when the recipe calls for it.  Of course, there are also those times, while drinking wine, when every dish seemed to warrant a dash of wine here and there whether dictated by a recipe or not, but I digress...

    In any event, it never crossed my mind to use a dessert or ice wine in cooking. But lo and behold, I read an article A Lesson in Enjoying Ice Wine that aptly stated "You pair it with desserts, drink it after meals, but you've never thought to use it to make your desserts, or use it in your meals".  Perhaps, its time we all venture out into new territory.  Imagine all the wonderful possibilities of cooking with ice with your French Toast....

    Happy Hour at Bounty Hunter Wine Bar

    bountyHunterBBQ.jpgNAPA, CA - Locals or any in the area during the work week trying to save a buck (or two) on a light late lunch or early dinner should stop by Bounty Hunter Wine Bar in downtown Napa.  Bounty Hunter boasts 40 wines by the glass and a seven page wine list of wines from around the world.

    The items on their regular food menu can start to add up, but their happy hour is quite the bargain.  Happy Hour is Monday - Thursday only from 3 to 6 pm and features:

    • 2 For 1 - Bounty Hunter Brands By-The-Glass
    • 25% off the Wine List
    • $5 Quarter Slab BBQ Ribs & Slaw
    • $10 Smokin' BBQ Taster Plate
    • (includes ribs, brisket, & pulled pork)

    Stop by for a small respite from the worries of life.

    Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ
    975 First Street
    Napa, CA 94559

    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Oh My!

    Hands.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

    In Barbara Kingsolver's fascinating new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,  the bestselling author of The Poisonwood Bible chronicles a year in which her family - having relocated to a small Virginia farm - commits to consuming only those foods grown on their own small patch of land or on those of neighboring farms.  And while the premise of the book - a return to the local food culture on which our nation was initially based, and which has long been trumped by corporate farming and industrial food production - is fascinating, even more so may be the insights the book affords into Americans' warped view of just how food is created today, and how it arrives at our tables (clue: we tend not to think too hard about it, to our own detriment).

    Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery - Chocolate Bouchon Mix!

    bouchon.jpgIf you've ever been to Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in Napa Valley Wine Country, then most likely you have tried their signature chocolate treat called "Bouchon".  It is chocolaty, brownie, cake-like goodness that no person should be without! If you have yet to go, definitely make this as a must visit, see, and taste for yourself stop next time you are in town*.  But what will you do until then???

    Apparently, Bouchon Bakery has partnered  exclusively with Williams-Sonoma who are now selling the Chocolate Bouchon Mix directly to consumers.  "The mix combines Guittard cocoa powder, Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla and a generous helping of Callebaut chocolate chips".

    It's only $18.00 and yields 18 bouchons.  Of course, you also have to buy the "bouchon mold pan".  Sigh...just looking at the picture is making me salivate all over again. I may have to order my mix tonight or since I live local, maybe just pop over to the bakery itself.

    If there are any readers out there that have already tried the mix and have tasted the original, let us know if it tastes the same!

    *Note: Bouchon Bakery is also located in New York and Las Vegas.

    chocolate_croissant_lg.jpgChef: Sharon Campbell
    Executive Pastry Chef, Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

    Prepared for Pairings at the Plaza during the 9th Annual Great Wine Escape in Monterey, CA

    Gift Guide 2008 - Chocolate

    vogesChoc1.jpgVoges Haut-Chocolate
    Ordinarily, you might think of chocolate for the holidays as a stocking stuffer or just a candy dish treat. Don't get stuck in boring traditions. Chocolate should be on your list for a friend, workmate, sibling, aunt, uncle, get the point.

    Voges Haut-Chocolat offers decadently, rich chocolates, truffles, caramels, toffee, and even brownies, ice cream and cake for the sophisticated "I love chocolate" palate. But now that you've scampered across the website, in this menu and the the other, salivating at all this chocolaty goodness, what to get is the now burning question. Appetite Stimulus Plan

    opentableStimulus.jpgWith such hard economic times upon us, at least it's heartening to know that businesses are responding with to make your dollar stretch a little farther. is doing it's part with their Appetite Stimulus Plan.  Enjoy specially priced ($24 lunches, $35 Dinners) three-course menus at top restaurants. In addition, you'll earn 200 Dining Rewards Points for every Appetite Stimulus Plan Reservation that you honor! If you aren't a member yet, you just might want to think about joining.

    A couple of restaurants participating in Napa Valley Wine Country and Sonoma Wine Country include:

    Experience wine & food wherever you are. CLICK HERE to see list of participating restaurants in cities across the nation!

    TIP: Cut costs even more and bring your own bottle of wine. You may have to pay a corkage fee, but it will most likely still be cheaper to bring your own then buy!

    F&B Program Going Anywhere But Downhill at Mammoth Mountain

    mammothdining.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

    Attention, outdoors-loving oenophiles:  Gone are the days of scarfing sub-par sandwiches and downing cheap brews between downhill ski runs. Well, at least for those of us lucky enough to hit the slopes in Southern California, that is.  There, über chef Joachim Splichal of LA's venerable Patina Restaurant Group (think Patina, Pinot Bistro, and Vegas's popular Pinot Brasserie) was recently appointed to oversee all food-service operations on Southern California's Mammoth Mountain, which means that visitors to the state's most popular year-round resort can now enjoy the fruits of the group's signature French-Cal cuisine between runs.

    ZAGAT Getting Usurped As Resto Go-To Guide

    By Courtney Cochran

    In a world where blogs and user reviews - AKA the wisdom of the crowd - carry ever-increasing weight, it seems only natural that the pioneer of the user-as-expert theory where restaurants are concerned would still carry significant clout.  And indeed, Zagat still boasts some serious cred with consumers, as evidenced by the widely-noted release of the group's 2009 America's Top Restaurants survey yesterday.

    New Dining Option in Napa - Firewood Cafe

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    NAPA, CA - As if there was not enough dining options already in the city of Napa, a new one just popped up in the Bel Aire Plaza - Firewood Cafe. Occupying a nice space across the ways from Wholefoods Market and a BBQ place I'm told is quite expensive, Firewood Cafe offers a happy medium for local lunch goers or the casual dinner crowd. It hails from good ol San Francisco with three other locations, Napa being it's fourth location.

    Surf to Your Local Farmers Market

    By Robert Farmer

    Portland, Oregon: If you care enough about wine to read websites devoted to it (this one, for example), I'm guessing you also care enough about food to use the Internet to learn and make better decisions about food. So let me tell you about my new favorite website. It's called and it is one of the best among many food-related websites popping up from one end of the web to the other.

    Crazy Over Corkage

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    By Robert Farmer

    Recently my wife and I ventured out for an increasingly rare night on the town for dinner without our new baby. To us, such an occasion is special, so we set out for one of our favorite special occasion restaurants in San Francisco.

    Though the place isn't one of the high-voltage restaurants that most people in SF correlate with a special occasion, it is a local favorite, which consistently earns high marks with critics and area foodies alike. Also, they have an exceptional wine list to match their gorgeous menu.

    Lunch Like a Local

    lunchLikeLocal.jpgby Courtney Cochran

    Brenda and Dylan had The Peach Pit. Rachel and Ross had Central Perk. Even Carrie and Samantha shared many a gab fest in the same sunny Manhattan diner (what was it called??).

    Whether we're talking 90210, 10010 or right here in wine country, there's an undeniable fascination with dining haunts frequented by our favorite locals. And, lucky for wine country travelers, the spots in our own backyard are much more accessible than their fictional TV counterparts.

    Food Blogs to Make Your Mouth Water - Part I

    tea_cookies.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

    Tea & Cookies
    "It is the intersection of food and life that I find most fascinating," Seattle-based food blogger "Tea" explains of the MO behind her popular blog, Tea & Cookies, which focuses as much on the stories behind food as the good stuff itself. In a recent post, the professional writer - who goes by the pseudonym Tea to remain anonymous - chronicles her quest to make the perfect pita, a process that begins with a Sunday morning itch to bake and follows the author as she grapples with a fear of yeast and failed attempt at making her pita dough rise.

    And the Ivy Goes to Dry Creek Kitchen


    In the culinary world, the term "award-winning" is tossed around like so many mushrooms sautéed in a skillet. But sometimes the term actually means something, and some restaurants and chefs just seem to rack up the awards faster than others. Especially in Wine Country, where the competition is fierce, the awards and accolades a particular place earns can mean the difference between good and great.

    DIY Gourmand

    how_works_body.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

    IKEA got it right:  Give design conscious customers appealing, easy-to-assemble furniture at reasonable prices, and - presto! - they score designer-caliber furnishings, a feeling of accomplishment and even cross the finish line with enough dough left in the bank to splurge on the matching ottoman.

    Everyone wins.

    Mat to Table

    By Courtney Cochran
    Leave it to wine country dwellers to divine a venue where you can master downward dog, realign your chakras and dine on sustainably farmed eats and drink all in one place.  At Napa's new Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio (, a daily roster of classes including Ashtanga, Hatha, prenatal and Vinyasa techniques is complemented by - what else? - vegetarian-inspired cuisine crafted from goods sourced from local farms and the spot's nearby biodynamic gardens.
    by Courtney Cochranoxbow.jpg

    If the flurry of construction that's been underway along the waterfront in downtown Napa is any indicator, the once-sleepy city is on the brink of becoming a major tourist destination. And the Oxbow Public Market ( - at just three months' old one of the newest additions to the downtown area - may be one of the city's most promising new arrivals.  Read on for the scoop on our favorite purveyors in this venue that looks poised to become the next big thing in a whole new Napa.

    College Prep: Wolfgang Puck, Eggplant Parm

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    by Courtney Cochran

    When I was a freshman at UCLA a decade ago, the school was considered ahead of its time - and ranked as one of the nation's top college campuses for dining - thanks to its "high end" cafeteria embellishments like a DIY pizza bar and made-to-order omelets on weekends.

    Cocoa Cool: Adventurous Pairings for Chocolate

    by Courtney Cochran

    courtneyCochran_profile.jpgLike the always-chic little black dress, chocolate never goes out of style.  Whether prepared in a winter-perfect soufflé format, drizzled over ice cream during the summer months or tucked into a decadent truffle that's perfect any season, chocolate gets it right every time.  Read on for tips on pairing wine with this timeless treat, as well as insights on some of the best spots to try your hand at wine and chocolate pairing in person.  

    Wine Country A Hit According to James Beard

    jbawards.jpgThe highly anticipated announcement of this year's finalists for the James Beard Foundation Awards ( counts some of wine country's brightest stars among its honorees.  Dubbed "the Oscars of the food world" by TIME Magazine, the "JBF" awards have been recognizing North America's top food and beverage professionals, broadcast journalists, authors and restaurant designers since 1990 at their annual awards gala at Lincoln Center.  Past recipients include Jacques Pépin, Joel Robuchon, Thomas Keller and Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards - to name just a few.

    Beer & Cheese Make for a Great Match


    By Courtney Cochran


    Spend enough time in a wine country brew pub and you'll sooner or later hear the favorite mantra of wine country bartenders, "It takes a lot of good beer to make great wine."  And while beer's popularity with the winemaking cognoscenti may not come as a huge surprise, its affinity for cheese probably does. That's right, like wine beer can pair beautifully with an array of fromages from Muenster to Morbier, and often does so even more gracefully than vino itself.

    A Remembrance of Things Repast

    By Natalie MacLean


    Breakfast in a gulp, lunch on the go and dinner on the run. Life in the fast lane seems to have bypassed the slow, ancient pleasures of the table. However, an amiable group of gastromes hopes to put an end to our nuke-it-and-eat-it culture.

    With a charming chiocciolina (small snail) as its mascot and a philosophy that advocates the defence of pleasure, Slow Food, an international organization with 30,000 members in 35 countries is helping members rediscover the flavours of regional cooking and fresh local produce. The group believes that small doses of sensual pleasure preserve us from the fast and frozen food, the enemies of contemplative cuisine.