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Category Archives: Apricot

Autumn Feast: Pumpkin Seed Pesto Caramel Apples and Apple Turnover Recipe

Autumn Feast: Pumpkin Seed Pesto Caramel Apples and Apple Turnover Recipe

I had the pleasure of joining my friend Lise and her husband at their property in Tahoe a couple of weeks ago. Lise had never been to Apple Hill in Placerville, and I wanted her to experience it, so she invited me up to her property after. After that excursion, we spent a couple of days cooking together, eating out at local restaurants, entertaining and exploring the cute town of Genoa Nevada.

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Carl and Lise at Walley’s Restaurant and Saloon

I met Lise while hiking the trails of Mount Diablo a few years back. She is a nutritionist and I love learning more about the health advantages of food. We can talk for hours about recipes and baking. And of course, we walked a lot while on this vacation. Sadly, my husband couldn’t join us because of his work.

 

First off, we stopped at Boa Vista Farms, where we bought decadent blueberry dumplings, blackberry dumplings, apple turnovers, and this is where we watched these caramel apples being made. Here’s the blog I wrote on my first trip there. They have everything apple. It’s quite a fun place to visit. Lots of activities for the kids and plenty of fresh fruit to purchase. My friends loved it so much that they wanted to go back to explore more farms on the way home.

 

Next, we drove to Carl and Lise’s home. It was lovely and we promptly took their cute dog for a walk around the neighborhood. For dinner that night we ate at David Walley’s Restaurant and Saloon. I had their French Dip and green salad and my friends had the ribs. It amused me to experience eating at a saloon. My friends told me that ordering a meal at the bar is much cheaper than eating at the restaurant especially if it is happy hour. And the food was really good. I had a beer on tap served with sliced oranges, my go to drink. I would recommend this place to anyone who needs to fuel their bodies and they have a resort on site for people that need a place to stay.

 

The next morning, Lise and I proceeded to take the family dog on a jaunt before cooking up a storm. The neighborhood is still being developed and  cottontail bunnies, jack rabbits, coyotes, rattlesnakes and scorpions are known to be living in the vicinity as well. This information made me a little on edge, since I’m not a huge fan of snakes. Luckily, we only came across one baby one in the middle of the road and he was harmless.

 

So when packing for the trip, I grabbed a few ingredients that I had in my fridge. I brought along plenty of fresh tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, canned olives, fresh corn, roasted beets, goat cheese, mandarin oranges, pistachios, bib lettuce, some of my homemade apricot jam, cheese and crackers for a cheese platter, refried beans,tortilla chips, sour cream, candied pecans, and herbs from my garden. I never leave the house without plenty of food.

 

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Little did I know, Lise had invited guests over for dinner, so my provisions came in handy. We spent the morning making corn salsa, a bean dip, zucchini quesadillas with pistachio-pumpkin seed pesto, and coleslaw. Oh my! The food we made was over the top stupendous. Lise’s guests were blown away by our appetizers, beet salad and main dish quesadillas. All of it was made with love and you could taste it in the food.

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Roasted beet salad w pistachios, mandarin oranges and goat cheese

Before the day got away from us, we headed town to tour Grover Hot Springs where we hiked around for a while. Feeling a bit hungry we stopped for lunch at The Pink House Cheese and Charcuterie Shop & Restaurant. We were amazed by their Fall menu selections as well as their selection of specialty foods smartly displayed on cute wooden shelves. Not only was this place located in an old victorian building, but their dishes were outstanding. I had their pork meatball on top roasted spaghetti squash and marinara, and Lise enjoyed their salmon burger with coleslaw, green salad and potato leek soup. Our waiter bragged about the chef from Philadelphia who was known for his meatballs. I found them a little bland, but they served it with a herbed goat cheese on top which made perfect sense.

 

Next was a quick stroll through the town of Genoa, where we walked by their country store, and Nevada’s Oldest Saloon where they have Sunday entertainment called porch parties. Of course there was an antique shop and my favorite store Sierra Chef Italian Pastries, (Purveyors of Bently Ranch Meats), which served coffee, tea plenty of goodies. You can also take cooking classes there! I was thrilled to see all of their ingredients stored on shelves in glass jars and their spices were stored in huge glass bottles. They must go through a lot of seasonings.

 

We were tempted by all the freshly baked goods, but don’t forget I was with a nutritionist. And we still had plenty of pastries left from Apple Hill.

 

Last stop was the Courthouse Museum where Lise and I browsed antique quilts, dolls, teddy bears, jail cells from 1865, the post office and the Genoa courthouse. I felt like I was back in an old western movie seeing how the small community lived way back when.

 

Back at the house, Lise and I prepared the remaining dishes for her friends who were about to arrive. Among the appetizers were corn salsa with avocado, candied pecans, bean dip with tortilla chips, and a cheese platter with my apricot jam and pineapple pepper jelly. Lise’s dinner entree of zucchini quesadillas with pumpkin seed pistachio pesto was exceptional and my roasted beet, goat cheese, mandarin orange and pistachio salad was delicious too. The evening went by too quickly for us all, but good memories were made.

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Lise’s zucchini quesadillas and pumpkin seed pistachio pesto

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Lise, Carl and their neighbors enjoying our Fall feast

High Hill Ranch was our destination before heading home where we collected apple and pumpkin donuts and a huge box of Autumn Glory Apples. They have been going fast in my house mostly because I love apple turnovers. Recipe below.

 

Fun was had by all during my mid week excursion in Tahoe. Lise and Carl were generous to let me stay with them and I’m thankful for their hospitality.

If you haven’t been to Apple Hill yet, it’s a must this time of year. Go hungry and take a few friends. They won’t be disappointed.

 

Apple Turnovers

Ingredients for filling:

3 or 4 Apples thickly sliced (depending on size about 3 or 4 cups)

1 C crushed Flaked Corn Cereal

1 C Granulated Sugar divided

1 t cinnamon (Penzey’s brand is best)

½  t ground ginger

½ t ground cardamom

½ t ground cloves

1 stick of unsalted butter (1/2 Cup) Cold cut into chunks

2 T Rum or Brandy

1 egg whisked in a small bowl

 

Mix ½ C sugar with spices and set aside.

Put cut apples in a bowl and pour rum or brandy over. Set aside.

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Pastry:

3 C Flour

3 T granulated Sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (1 stick)

¼ C. Shortening

3 Tbsp  H2O

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tsp white distilled vinegar

Directions for making Pastry

  1.  In a  large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blended and working quickly to prevent butter from melting into flour, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (or put mixture in food processor and pulse until combined) Another pie recipe here:Strawberry pie
  2. In a small bowl combine water, egg, and vinegar. Stir to mix. With a fork, mix egg mixture into flour just until dough clumps together and moist enough to pat together. If dough is dry and crumbly, add more water 1 Tbsp at a time. Dough should not be wet or sticky. (I use the food processor and pulse until combined.)
  3. Wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  4. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll with pin to flatten and cut into rounds about the size of the palm of your hand.
  5. Sprinkle each round of pastry with 1 T sugar, then 1 T crushed corn flakes. Lay 4 or 5 slices of apples on center of sugar. Sprinkle again with 1 T cinnamon, sugar mixture. Bless each turnover with 1 T butter and fold over pinching the seams. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Proceed to make all turnovers until all pastry is gone and no apples are remaining. Brush with whole egg and sprinkle again with sugar.
  6. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for about 15-22 minutes until brown and bubbly.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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Enjoy! If you liked this blog, please sign up and follow me to receive more recipes and any new posts. Thank you for reading as always.

Teri

 

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Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti

Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti
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Grapes just picked at Heirs of my Dream Winery Sonoma

 

Took a vacation day trip out to the Sonoma area last week. I’ve been wanting to check out the new Hanson Distillery along Hwy 12 in the Carneros Valley for some time. I’ve been passing this place and dying to go in, but I usually have my Dad in the car and he doesn’t want to stop at these places. While out and about, I also had the pleasure of walking around Homewood Winery, Troika Wines, and Ceja Vineyards. Of course I took advantage of checking out Domaine Carneros,  Napa’s Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli, their pumpkin farm next door, and Starmont Winery and Vineyards.

 

Today’s drive was spontaneous and last minute. Never enough time to schedule a pal to go along with me, so I decided to go by myself. It’s so much fun to explore these hidden gems especially this time of year. The colors are changing on the vines, the weather is cooler, and there is a crisp breeze which makes me want to drive to the wine country.

First was a tour of Heirs of my dream Winery by Ellie. She showed me around the quaint property letting me get a glimpse into her world. I was attracted to this property because I heard a man singing loudly while cleaning out wine barrels. This property is perfect for weddings and parties. Have I mentioned it is brand new? Their website is barely up, but they are doing exciting things.

 

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Gorgeous venue.

 

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Krzystof and Hanson’s vodka

 

Next was a mango, habanero vodka cocktail at Hanson’s Distillery carefully prepared by a Polish guy named Krzystof. I learned all about the Hanson family who are passionate about vodka and originally from Marin. They are the first non-GMO distillery in the US and make their vodka from grapes. They have many flavors: cucumber, ginger, mandarin, habanero, and limited varieties of espresso and boysenberry. The drink was delicious, a bit spicy too because of the habanero vodka and their Tajin Clasico Chili Lime Seasoning rimmed glass. The espresso had a bold rich flavor with notes of chocolate. The property is adorned with a pond and gorgeous romantic trees. It’s quite an experience if you are looking for a fun getaway.

 

On the same estate was Ceja Vineyards, but they were closed. Troika Wines were right next door and were offering tastings, but I had to decline since I was at my limit after drinking the cocktail. Across the road was Homewood Winery, but I chose to move on.

I’ve always wondered what the enormous breathtaking beautiful chateau was that is along Hwy 12 on the hill, and was pleasantly surprised to find Domaine Carneros. Reservations were required, but I was happy enough to walk around the premises. It seemed a bit stuffy for my taste, but I’m sure well worth the tasting if you are looking for sparkling wine and pinot noir.
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Fancy Pumpkins in wheel barrow

On the way back to Hwy 29 on the left was Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli and I was getting plenty hungry by then. The family run business owned by Wilcoxson’s are best known for their authentic pit smoked meats. Pulled pork, chicken, tri tip and brisket sandwiches are served just to name a few. I didn’t stay, since I was intrigued by their pumpkin farm adjacent to the restaurant. I’m quite the farmer, and appreciate what goes into growing these crops. This atmosphere is family friendly and a must see for locals and travelers alike.

My last stop in the Carneros Valley was paying a visit to the 50 acres of  Starmont Winery and historic Stanly Ranch. Gargantuan eucalyptus trees grace the property which draw you in and make you want to see more. It was quiet yet inviting and a nice place to spend a couple of hours. Since I was driving, I didn’t partake in their tastings, but will go back someday.

I enjoyed my day trip to the Carneros Valley. The habanero vodka cocktail is something I’d like to make for friends in the future. I will probably make one of my famous cheese platters to go with them as well. Included will be my pineapple pepper jelly from my homegrown organic serrano peppers. I also enjoy my blenheim apricot jam to accompany the brie and blue cheese.

So I hope I’ve inspired you to make a trip to the Carneros Valley with a few friends or loved ones. I know I will be finding my way back there soon also. But until then, here is my recipe for ginger, apricot, pistachio biscotti. They are chewy, not like an ordinary biscotti and a real treat.

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Candied Ginger Apricot Pistachio Biscotti

 

Ingredients:

2 C All Purpose Flour

1 C Granulated Sugar

1 tsp Baking Powder

3 eggs

2 T Sambuca (an Italian Licorice flavored liquor)

2 T Grand Marnier

1 tsp Vanilla

1 tsp Anise Extract

1 C whole Pistachios

1 T fresh Orange Zest

1/2 t  Saltverk Licorice Salt (found in iceland) or substitute 1/2 t Kosher

½ C chopped Crystalized Ginger

¾ C Mariani Dried Apricots

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheet w parchment paper or a silpat.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder together in a large size bowl. In another bowl whisk eggs, both liqueurs, vanilla, anise, orange zest and salt.

Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in pistachios, ginger and apricots.

Divide dough in half and transfer onto parchment paper into two 2.5 inch wide logs with floured hands.

Bake until golden in color, firm and dry about 20 minutes.

Remove from pan and slice loaf on a diagonal into ¼ in to ½ in thick slices. Arrange cookies cut side down onto a sheet pan and bake again for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Enjoy! Do you have a favorite biscotti recipe? This is one I’ve adapted from a culinary class taken at Diablo Valley College’s pastry program.

And here is a terrific recipe for scones dipped in dark chocolate.

 

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Explore the Epicenter of Food and Wine at Cia Copia Napa

Explore the Epicenter of Food and Wine at Cia Copia Napa

I’m always looking for an excuse to take a day trip to the heart of downtown Napa, and yesterday was no exception. Many days I will drive aimlessly through the towns I want to blog about just hoping to find a hidden gem. Finding the Culinary Institute of America at Copia was just that. Today’s blog will be about what they are all about and my experience there.

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The Culinary Institute of America at Copia is a food lovers dream come true. The gorgeous 8000 ft modern campus has cooking classes, wine tasting classes,opportunities to host private events and much more. Classes include introducing you to the many different spices, teaching easy entertaining tips or throwing an upscale cocktail party just to name a few.
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The Store at Copia didn’t disappoint. Shop everything culinary from pairing knives to a wide selection of fancy vinegars. Their selection of cookbooks was outstanding  and I wanted one of each. They also had a cookbook display of the chefs that graduated from the Institute which was very cool. Celebrities like Cat Cora from Iron Chef, Amanda Freitag from Chopped were two of them that I can recall.

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I wanted to try something from their bakery cafe, but needed something more substantial since I skipped lunch. I didn’t sit down at the restaurant, but it looked warm and inviting. To be honest, the grounds were mostly deserted. I was surprised. Their gardens were plentiful consisting of fresh herbs like basil, sage, parsley, which they use in their farm to table dishes.

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They also offer an outdoor Jackson Family Wines Amphitheater in case you need a wedding venue. Or if you prefer, they have a garden balcony that overlooks their lovely Copia gardens. The property was originally developed by Julia Child and Robert Mondavi.Their community conversational events look enticing too, You’ll hear from local chef’s such as Tanya Holland from Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, or Alice Waters from Berkeley’s Chez Panisse.

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But pretty much no one needs a reminder of what Alice is known for. The Edible Schoolyard Project is what Alice’s mission is all about. Her hope is to help every child by having a sustainable national edible curriculum from prekindergarten through high school. An honorable concept.

 

Have you thought of taking a  class at CIA California Campus? Could you see yourself taking a hands on cooking or baking class? Or how about learn how to make jam and jellies? Here’s my blog on how I make my blenheim apricot jam. It’s truly the best served on a cheese platter w marcona almonds, various cheeses and crostini. Also make sure to check out my next blog on the Chuck Williams Exhibit at Cia Copia opening soon.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my write up on my few hours in Napa California. If you want a great foodie experience it should be on your bucket list for sure. I can’t wait to take advantage of the 20% off class coupon that I found at nearby Oxbow Public Market.The cheese making class looks intriguing…

 

Feel free to share this or follow me so you get my future blog posts and recipes. Cheers to your August 2018. Hope you make it special.

 

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Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

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Spent my birthday weekend at my sister’s friends house in Truckee last weekend. It was a fun filled time hiking, sleeping in (my favorite), board games, barbecuing nice meals and checking out Northstar Resort and The Ritz-Carlton Resort. My sister Susan, her friend Lori, my husband Ken, my and niece Marie and nephew Vince were able to change around their work schedules so they could stay with us too. 

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We hiked around Spooner lake with the two dogs and stayed nice and cool in the tall trees. The dogs loved getting in the lake while we watched for local birds like the white headed woodpecker, kestrels, steller’s jay, barn swallows and many others. Birding is one of my favorite hobbies and it’s fun to find new species when I travel.

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Marie bought me a “birthday” marion berry pie from Ikeda’s and it was scrumptious. She and my sister wanted to bake me a cake, but that’s a tall order to make a cake for a pastry chef. And we were all having so much fun playing outside and relaxing on their deck to bake in a hot kitchen.


The highlight of the trip was hanging out at the Northstar California Resort. They offer mountain biking, hiking, golf, Kids Adventure Camp, Mini Golf, and something called Kid Zone. There’s even a roller skating rink open during the summer for families that like that kind of thing. What we loved were the full body massages that were offered by Jackie at Tahoe Yoga and Wellness Center. This business gives yoga classes too, some of which I have attended.  Marie and I made appointments that morning and got right in. Now that’s the way to end a fun getaway weekend feeling all relaxed and pampered.

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Next we drove up the hill to explore lunch options at the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe. After all we were celebrating my birthday weekend and I’m always up for checking out 5 star hotels. This place was incredible inside and out. Very family oriented also, the outside seating at the Manzanita Restaurant included frisbees so kids could play in the nearby grass while waiting for their food. What a luxury to be able to have a conversation with your spouse and know your kids aren’t bored out of their mind. And they had a art show displaying famous artists inside the hotel. 

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The food was simple but delicious. The three of us shared the turkey club served warm with organic turkey, gruyère cheese, pecan-wood bacon, pickled onion, lettuce, tomato, and herb Mayonnaise. We also ordered the Mediterranean salad with loads of salty goat cheese, cherry tomatoes and nicely brined kalamata black olives.
It was exciting sitting outside when the rain started to come down in buckets. We were under a covered patio, so it was pleasant enough. We realized that anything can happen when you are in the mountains at high altitude. Taking time to visit with my niece and nephew on this vacation was priceless. We are so lucky to have family that lives in the Truckee area. Maybe next time our own kids will join us.

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Fennel, Chive and Heirloom Tomato Green Salad

 

Ingredients:

1 Head of Organic lettuce washed and torn to large bite sized pieces

1 carrot peeled and shredded

¼ bulb fennel sliced thinly (saving the dill like fronds to top for decoration)

2 T chives finely chopped (saving the florets for top to decorate)

1 C chopped red and yellow heirloom tomatoes from the garden

 

Directions:

Place greens in a large bowl. Sprinkle remaining veggies onto greens and toss saving dill fronds and chive florets for the top. Place salad plates in fridge earlier in the day. 

Serves 7
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Apricot White Balsamic Salad Dressing

 

Ingredients:

 

1 T Dijon Mustard

2 T Organic Blenheim Apricot Preserves

¼ C White Balsamic Vinegar (or Champagne Vinegar)

1 T grapeseed oil

1 t minced shallot

2 t minced garlic

1 T local honey

1 orange/lime/ or lemon freshly squeezed

½ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

In a small saucepan, saute shallots and garlic in 1 T grapeseed oil on medium heat until soft and translucent. Add honey.

Place dijon mustard and apricot jam in a small to medium size bowl. Add sauteed shallots, garlic and honey. Add balsamic vinegar, citrus, salt and pepper and stir. Slowly incorporate olive oil in a steady stream while whisking. Set in fridge until ready to eat salad. Nothing worse than bruised and wilted lettuce, so don’t put dressing on until last minute and toss lightly after pouring dressing around edges of inside of the bowl. This way, all lettuce gets covered evenly.

Thanks for reading my blog today and make sure to sign up to get my future posts with recipes and recent foodie adventures.

 

 

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Sip Happens… It’s Okay to WINE

Sip Happens… It’s Okay to WINE
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Lynie and me at Bob’s Wine Class

Took a spectacular wine class last weekend at the local community center in my town with my neighbor Lynn. Lynn also happens to be my husband’s cousin, so that makes her extra special. She got me excited about signing up for the class a few months ago, and boy am I glad I did. I’m usually a food blogger. But wine goes well with food, right?

In today’s blog, I will be sharing the highlights about what you need to know about wine and sharing my favorite risotto recipe. Bob Becker a certified Sommelier and Wine professional gave the wine analysis presentation along with his wife Darla. Lynie and I and several other wine enthusiasts learned that Americans drink 900 million gallons of wine a year!  It was interesting to find out that there were only 40 wineries back in 1970. And today, there are 9000 wineries in the US! We like our wine. In fact, Bob said that Americans drank 3.7 billion bottles of wine in 2017!

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My nieces Keri and Jamie last December at Rombauer in St Helena

I had no idea how complicated wine tasting could be. We went through the Seven Components that make up the structure (there happens to be 1200 components in a glass of wine): Aroma, Alcohol, Sugar, Acid, Tannin, Texture, and Body were what we covered.These characteristics helped us learn how to identify the glasses we had in front of us. During our lifetime, we create a memory bank of aromas that our brain remembers when drinking wine. The three types of Aroma are Natural/Floral like a Viognier, a Bouquet aroma (the wine is 4 or 5 yrs old) and was made w molecular equilibrium like raisin or leather aroma, or Wine Maker Infused because of the wine barrels. There are American, French and Hungarian wood barrels.

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Lynie getting serious while waiting for Bob’s presentation

American barrels might smell like vanilla, dill or coconut. Where as the French barrels have a caramel, spice or nutmeg aroma. The Hungarian may taste like cinnamon or cloves and the winemakers add wood chips to get these flavors when they burn the barrels. True story. They can only flavor wine in a barrel three times before these barrels are discarded. When Bob worked at Hess in Napa they had 3,500 barrels at one time and each barrel cost approximately $1,600 each. That’s a lot of moolah.

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Bob’s wife Darla and a few happy participants

Then we learned the five step tasting method: Sight, Swirl, SniffSip and Summarize. Sight– When looking at your wine, look for clarity.  Is it crystal clear? How old is it? White wines get darker after 4 yrs because they start oxidizing. What climate was it grown in? Red wines get lighter as they age. The color pigments fall to the bottom and at 4-6 yrs old the reds have a different color at the outer edge rim part of the glass. Are you confused yet?

Actually we were just getting started tasting the various wines sitting in front of us. It was so fun. When one Swirls, you are aerating the wine releasing esters of aroma molecules that enter the nose. Fun fact! Right handers swirl their wine glass counterclockwise and left handers clockwise. Apparently, legs are those streaks that trickle down the side of any wine glass after you swirl it. They tell nothing about wine. It means the cabernet grapes had thick skin. The slower the legs the more alcohol.

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Lynie and I had to identify various Smells like coconut, pear, lemon, cloves, raspberry, pineapple, diesel and mildew (cause from a moldy cork) that were located in small bottles on the table. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to remember each of these. Smell is the gateway to flavor. For example, New Zealand’s wines have more of a lychee aroma. A Spanish wine over 10 years old will smell like leather. A Viognier white wine may taste like white peaches, apricots or a green apple aroma. And we learned that no two people smell things alike. Who knew?

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My dad Ron and my friend Susan at Rombauer a few years ago. Of course I was trying to be a matchmaker again

It was so interesting to find out that everyone has a dominant nostril when Sniffing wine. The professionals hold their glass within an ⅛ of an inch of the rim to properly sniff. They tilt the glass and use only one nostril. Fascinating!  

Now I know I was supposed to take notes on Sipping and Summarizing too, but there is nothing written here. I wonder if the wine was kicking in…

Bob also talked about ways to recognize bad wine. For instance, if you make a reservation for an earlier time, the restaurants may be serving wine from the day before that doesn’t taste quite right. And if you are paying $12-16 dollars for a glass of wine, it should taste good. Call the waiter and have them open a new bottle in front of you so you know it isn’t old. Great tip!

We talked about Infrared Thermometers that help tell the wine’s exact temperature. We now know that lying a bottle on its side helps prevent air getting in and that we should keep the bottles in a cool dark 55 degree room. Wine cellars can cost $87,000 to build! Interestingly enough, don’t store your wine in a home fridge because they vibrate in there and that changes the flavor of the wine prematurely. It’s also too cold and dry in your home fridge. For those of you that only drink a glass or two a night, buy a coravin. These help suck the wine into your glass and keep the cork in place to keep the wine fresh. These are just a few of the many interesting wine tasting tricks in Bob’s class.

Bob was clear about serving wine from a clear glass with a stem that is thin with a narrow rim like these or these.  The thinner the glass the better the wine tastes. I know these rules are boring you, but I’m excited to have my next dinner party and show off all of my new wine tips.
Thank goodness red wine has beneficial health benefits too. Although it’s best to not over drink. Make sure to drink a wine that is older than 10 years quickly and don’t decant it. The oxygen destroys the flavor immediately. 

Also- Bob pointed out that screw tops are perfectly fine, they are fabulous at preserving wine and are better than corked wines. Five out of every 100 wine bottles have bad corks!

The characteristics of a well made wine are: Expressiveness, Complexity, Pleasing Texture, Balance and Lingering Finish. When you swallow, how long does the flavor stay on your palate? Does it burn the back of your throat going down? This may mean it has a high alcohol content. Side note: Bob mentioned Screaming Eagle Wine founded by female winemaker Jean Phillips. He and Darla had the pleasure of enjoying her wine for $1,200 a bottle! No kidding.

One of the most interesting facts about the class was realizing that wine is full of SUGAR. These bottles show how much sugar is in each wine. Sparkling wine like Cava/Spain, Prosecco/Italy, and Roederer/France has less sugar and go with many foods. It’s against the law to add sugar to wine. Just before the wine is bottled, the vintners dump raw grape juice into the bottle. The yeast eats the sugar and ethyl alcohol is produced.

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At the end of the class Bob revealed what we were drinking. It was fun to find out more about these wines. My favorite was either #4 or #5 because I was picking up a coffee aroma and I love coffee.

#1 A Sauvignon Blanc from Smart Cookie Vineyards

#2 Chenin Blanc from Beringer

#3 A Zinfandel from Quackenbush

#4 Pisano RPF Uruguay Tannat 2013

#5 Apothic Red 2015
I could go on and on with more wine tips, but why not take a class like Bob’s? His email is Beck711@comcast.net. He also does private parties. Or you could go wine tasting at Page Mill Winery in Livermore and meet my hiking friend Debbie.She knows her stuff. Lots of cool things to do in Livermore.

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Wine Wheel that helps while wine tasting

In Bob’s  words “If you wine a little bit, you’ll feel a lot better.” Well, I can tell you that my husbands cousin Lynie and I definitely felt a lot better after taking his class. I hope you have enjoyed this write up and have picked up a thing or two about wine.

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And finally, I will end with a quote from Benjamin Franklin. “In wine there is wisdom, in beer freedom, in water there is bacteria. I think I’ll plan a day trip to the Napa Valley, Livermore or Healdsburg. Anyone want to go? Hit me up! Leave me a comment below and tell me your favorite wine tip.

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My fav chef Michael Chiarello even has his own wine. Pic taken a few years back at Bottega restaurant in Yountville at Marketplace

 

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Reasons why you should visit Oakland’s Insanely Good Food Scene

Reasons why you should visit Oakland’s Insanely Good Food Scene

 

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Beautiful graffiti art in West Oakland

Had a fabulous day last Friday exploring Tanya Holland’s Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen Restaurant with my friend Sandra. We also took a walk through of the historic Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, one of my favorite places. We shared stories and got caught up while sipping on Peet’s Coffee and nibbling on treats from Fournee Bakery. All this on a rainy March afternoon, so I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

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The view outside Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland

Firstly, If you haven’t checked out Bravo’s Top Chef competition, it’s a must. I’ve been watching since the beginning and I’m hooked. Of course I love learning as much as I can about cooking and I follow the chefs on Instagram to see what they are up to. Tanya Holland owns an Oakland restaurant called Brown Sugar Kitchen. This place is off the beaten path so lucky I had a Google map to find my way there.

Sandra and I were excited to sit at the counter alongside Tanya herself cooking during the lunch rush. The place was packed, but we were happy to sit and watch the chef making her famous soul food recipes like her Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Cornmeal Waffle served w brown sugar butter and apple cider syrup. Yum. Obviously she was teaching her sous chef a few things because I’m sure she is needed in other areas promoting her cookbook written in 2014 and getting other restaurants up and running. Last September she announced she would be opening a BSKC Brown Sugar Kitchen Counter at the San Francisco Ferry Building, and hopes to expand her brand to the Warriors new Chase Center.

The food was exciting, flavorful and soulful. I ordered the Blackened Catfish served on top of rice with roasted red pepper sauce and pickled vegetables. It was good old fashioned comfort food and a huge portion of which I packed up to bring home for later. Sandra ordered the Creole BBQ Shrimp, basmati rice and baby spinach. She kept going back for more of the spicy dish and we shared the garlic green beans. Sadly, I couldn’t find collard greens on the menu, but loved the perfectly seared green beans.

We didn’t stay for dessert, but I got a close up photo of a banana cake w caramel ganache, a red velvet cake and sticky buns with pecans. This place serves my kind of food and it isn’t stuffy like other East Bay restaurants. The drink menu was limited, but I was happy with Drake’s Hefeweizen and fresh lemon. Sandra went for the Urban Cellars California Viognier. And just today I realized Tanya has teamed up with Humphry Slocombes and is making a brown sugar ice-cream with apple jam and a cornmeal cookie. Delicious!

Well,  if I haven’t convinced you to make a trip to the Oakland/Berkeley area yet then I will tell you about a few more places to visit. The Claremont Hotel and Spa happened to be on our way home and Sandra and I couldn’t help ourselves but to stop in for a look see. My husband and I have stayed here before and loved it. We actually spent the first night of our honeymoon there at the Claremont over 29 years ago. It’s historical because it opened in 1915. Even my grandparents frequented there back in the day. My mother and sister and I spent time at their spa getting massages and relaxing by the pool to celebrate Mother’s Day one year.  Their new bar Limewood looked fun and exciting, has a gorgeous view of San Francisco and features craft cocktails, small bites and afternoon tea.

Across from this gorgeous hotel sits Fournee Bakery where we purchased fresh fougasse and French baguettes for our Friday night supper. They sell seasonal desserts like trifles, a TCHO Chocolate salted caramel cake, tarte tatin, Valrhona chocolate mousse cake, and an orange flavored Basque cake.

Lucky for us, Peet’s Coffee was located right next door to the bakery so we could have our favorite espresso mochas while chatting about our day. Overall, I can’t imagine a more fun way to spend a Friday. I loved catching up with Sandra and hearing about her favorite Greek recipes that her and her husband George whip up. They’ve lived near us for over 20 years and have raised their kids in the same neighborhood as us attending the same schools and swim team.

I’m blessed to have the greatest friends who love to have foodie days with me. I hope I’ve given enough reasons to visit the Oakland Berkeley area. I can’t wait to plan my next outing. Any takers? Leave me a comment below and tell me where you would like to go. But first check out this delicious savory tart which would be perfect served on Easter morning or on any occasion. I made it for my coffee group and the women raved about it and of course asked for the recipe. Here it is.

Fennel, Goat Cheese and Cardamom Tart

Pastry Dough Recipe

1 ½ C Unbleached Flour

¾ Stick (6T) cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

¼ t Kosher salt

4 to 5 T Ice Cold H20

For Tart Filling

2 large fennel bulbs @ 2 ½ lbs

1 large leek

8 green cardamom pods (or 1 t cardamom spice powder)

¼ C white wine or champagne

¼ C H20

¼ C Olive Oil

1 t Kosher salt

½ t black pepper

2 T unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 large egg yolk

½ C heavy cream

½ C whole milk

¼ C goat cheese

3 Oz (½ C) Taleggio Cheese cut into extra small cubes

Make pastry dough for tart:

In a food processor, blend flour, salt and butter until blended. Or use pastry cutter or fingers just until most of  resembles coarse meal. Add cold water and blend until combined. Do not over mix or pastry will be tough.

Gather dough onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and make into a ball and flatten. Cover completely and let it rest in fridge to chill.

Directions for filling:

Cut off and discard fennel stalks and fronds. Cut out core and cut up fennel into ¼ in thick slices. Wash and cut leek into ¼ in slices using white parts only. Flatten cardamom pods with side of large heavy knife, then remove black seeds and discard pods. Crush seeds with side of knife and chop finely. Or sprinkle cardamom spice powder onto leeks and fennel in a 12 inch heavy skillet. Add wine, water, butter, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer, covered over moderately low heat stirring occasionally until tender about 20 to 25 min. Cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure rack is in center of oven.

Roll out dough into a 15 in round tart pan. I use plastic wrap to  prevent dough from sticking to rolling pin. Trim dough so that it is flush with rim of pan. Lightly prick dough with a fork, then chill for 30 min. Line shell with foil (I spray with Pam first)and fill with dry kidney beans, rice or pie weights.Bake on a large baking sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights and bake 10 -15 min longer or until tart shell is golden brown. Remove from oven.

Whisk together eggs, yolk, until foamy and add milk, cream, goat cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer fennel and leek mixture into pastry shell spreading evenly, and dot with taleggio cheese. Pour custard into shell and bake until set about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Serves 6-8 people

 

 

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Should You Take a Summer Vacation or Make Apricot Jam?

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July is almost here, which means most people are trying to get out of town for their annual summer vacation. Me? Well, besides starting a new job, I have plenty to keep me busy in the kitchen. Last week I decided it was time to get my apricot jam on. I mean, get going on the dozens of jars of preserves that I make every year. Apricots are my mom’s favorite fruit. It might me mine too, but I’ve got a thing for cherries too. Vacation is definitely NOT in the plans quite yet. Staycation is where it’s at.

Every year in mid June I drive to Brentwood and purchase 3 cases of Blenheim apricots. (I planted my own Blenheim tree a few years ago, but the critters always get to them before I do!) I love to give the jars to friends and relatives as a hostess gift all year long. My sister in law Nancy thinks I should sell my jam, but I’d rather treat those I love to this special treat. It is great on toast with a little butter or my husband’s fav is to smear it on his toast that has peanut butter on it. I like to use it in my home made salad dressings.

It starts with a call to Wolfe Ranch in the beginning of June. I make an appointment to come by and get the apricots when they are first picked. They have my cases ready when I get there.

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When I get home, I separate the apricots on sheet pans lined with paper towels and wait until they are good and ripe before starting my preserves.

I always use the less sugar Sure Jell fruit pectin (pink package) because it is not as sweet and somewhat healthier. I set out all the ingredients, have the jam jars and lids cleaned and sitting in a hot water bath, have the wax melted in a sauce pan on the stove, have the food processor on the counter next to my measuring cups, lemon juice freshly squeezed, and butter and sugar out ready to go.

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Next, I wash the apricots and cut them in half. I pulse them in the food processor and also cut some of them up with a small knife. DO NOT puree. Then I follow the cooked jam recipe exactly from the Sure Jell package.

  •  I measure exactly 6 cups of apricots into an 8 quart deep sauce pan and stir in 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp unsalted butter.
  •  Measure 4½ C sugar into a separate bowl.
  • Mix ¼ C of sugar from measured amount into a small bowl with 1 box of Sure Jell.
  •  Stir pectin-sugar mixture into fruit
  •   Bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat stirring constantly.
  •  Stir in remaining sugar quickly and return to a full rolling boil for exactly 1 1/2 minutes.
  •  Remove from heat and ladle into prepared jars. Fill to within 1/8 inch of the top of the jar. Ladle in paraffin wax.
  • Cover with lids and screw bands on tightly. When cool, wipe off any excess jam on the outside with a warm wash cloth. Enjoy!

Have you ever made jam? Leave a comment for me below and tell me about your tradition. Maybe you like to make pickles or can vegetables. I’d love to try pickling. What are you curious to make? I’m always inspired by the people who live in the middle of nowhere and have to use these methods to keep their food preserved.

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Are you getting away this summer or will you be hanging out at home like me? Either way, keep enjoying what you do. Try to give back when you can. And love the ones you’re with. We need more peace and love in the world. Listen to The Beatles “Let It Be.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ih-8K1a_SsA  The Beatles “Let it Be”My all time favorite song because my mom played the clarinet to this song at a Catholic Marriage Retreat when I was a little girl.

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Feel free to check out a previous blog here: https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/a-foodies-dream-edible-flowers-and-delicious-cocktails/

 

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