General: November 2009 Archives

'Tis the Season... for Olives

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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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cranberryChocDessert.jpg
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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Ingredients
  • 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

CARAMELIZED WINE AND ONION TART

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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.)

INGREDIENTS
  • 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

DIRECTIONS

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.
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

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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

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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! 

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