Deirdre Bourdet: September 2009 Archives

Open Studios, Open Mouths

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short_season_.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The sensory delight of Napa Open Studios begins September 19th. What better way to celebrate wine country's artists than with local wines and nibbles?

Although many venues are hosting special events, the offbeat G Studio in the upstairs of an old factory in Napa lets visitors meet the artists and their creations in the actual studio space where they work. The resident artists include Kate Salenfriend, Reuben Godinez, Katie Roberts, Deb Lubin, and glass maven Patti Wessman, whose fabulous tableware designs look straight out of that sexy wine country restaurant you've been dying to visit. Visiting artists Yvonne Henry, Heather King and Nancy Shapiro join the party for Open Studios this year. Walk around and chat with these crazy colorful characters about their inspiration as you sip seriously good wine (Bennett Lane, Bighorn, Tres Sabores, and many others), enjoy the late summer light streaming in the windows, and ponder the beauty of life.

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
707-431-1956

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

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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

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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

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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.

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