Get personal with Chef Pierre Gagnaire

When I asked the illustrious Chef Pierre Gagnaire to articulate his sheer genius in the kitchen, he leaned over and with a gentle smile that came through his deep steel blue eyes, to say, “I try to create an emotion.”

Clearly, Gagnaire has such an ability.  His food is as artistic as it is delicious. Edible art that is simple, and also ingeniously creative, his creations are capable of drawing out feelings of love, happiness, inspiration, delight, curiosity, ultimate pleasure.

Yet, Gagnaire is modest in every way.  Though he has gained a cult of international devotees and owns highly-acclaimed restaurants worldwide and has garnered three Michelin stars for his eponymous restaurant in Paris, he finds himself short of expressing his brilliance. But he understands that his business is a process and that constant evolution has allowed him to stay at the forefront of the international culinary scene and remain relevant in an ever-changing world.

Gagnaire is the type of individual that is present at every front. By example, this is one of the reasons for his visit to his only U.S. restaurant, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, located on the 23rd floor of Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. Working alongside his kitchen team, Chef de Cuisine Frederic Don, and wine director, Master Sommelier Will Costello, he says that consistency is supremely important – one that takes patience, the ability to empower his team to envision his idea, then organically allow their magic to take place in the kitchen.

“He creates an environment of family which allows me to have his full support when I am creating new menu items,” says Twist’s, Chef de Cuisine Frederic Don. “Most of all, he trusts our team.”

Gagnaire has always encouraged chefs to break free of the rules that have governed the French canon for so long.

“Finally, one day I was ready to open my vision with all these chefs,” says Gagnaire, “A chef has the capacity to translate .. he or she is talented.  I’m obsessed with the quality, and I try to give the process. Not the recipe, never the recipe – just the idea.”

The feeling of creativity, design and artistry delights the senses from the very moment you enter Twist. The majestic floor-to-ceiling windows heighten the energy in the dining room and a dramatic glass staircase leads up to a suspended wine loft.  The restaurant also boasts a most striking lighting feature, which incorporates more than 300 spheres designed to look like bubbles floating across the ceiling. All this, is after being greeted by hundreds of silk purple butterflies that are seemingly an extension of the warm hospitality one receives as a guest.

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Twist by Pierre Gagnaire continues to garner accolades for its groundbreaking menu of classic French cuisine, from vegetarian specialties, like Jardinière (Fava Beans, English Peas, Spring Onions Baby Carrots in Onion and Curry Juice English Pea Soup), to Muscovy Duck from Grimaud Farm (Thinly sliced with Cassis Bigarade Sauce Celeriac-Red Beetroot, Baby Carrots Turmeric Pommes Gaufrettes, Bacon Powder), Chef’s creations are a “twist” on the contemporary.

Gagnaire admits that his life in the culinary world was specified at an early age. His father was a chef, and while his siblings opted for other careers, cooking became Gagnaire’s destiny.  After working under some of the finest chefs in the business, he struck out on his own in the town of St Étienne, where his illustrious career took flight.

Since then, he has overseen the development of a number of restaurants around the world, from London, to Paris, to Seoul and Dubai – each of which stay true to the defining quality and innovation synonymous with Chef Gagnaire.

But, working closely with his team is where he feels most at home.  He explains how relationships are made through food, not only with his guests, but also with his team.

“I didn’t have a [career] choice, but I found that it was possible to tell a story.  Food creates relationships with people, and people are the keys to my life.”

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Secrets to making the perfect popover

Once the chill hits the air, it just feels like popover season to me. And yes, I make them for self-indulgent reasons, but also for the pure entertainment factor. When they rise gloriously beyond the walls of the pan to magnificent heights, it’s a show you want to experience front and center. Then, consume at once!

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But, why do they rise like that? It’s actually the steam that is built up inside the popover, which creates a hollow pocket and rises, pushing the popover higher and higher .. oh my goodness! (Make sure you don’t have another oven rack above it). The steam also cooks the inside, creating the most supple, custard-like texture that deliciously contrasts with the crunchy  exterior.  It’s really a magical creation.

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The functional form of the popover pan.

The popover is an American version of a Yorkshire pudding. It’s a light and hollow roll that is made from an egg batter. One of the secrets to making the perfect popover is using a popover pan.  It looks like a muffin pan, but each individual well is actually separate from the others, which allows hot air to circulate evenly around each well.

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Another tip is the make the pan very hot prior to adding the batter.  This will ensure that you achieve the steam needed to push them up, up, up!

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Fill popover pan just below half-way up.
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If you choose to add cheese, add 10 minutes into baking (quickly!)
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Enjoy at once!

Ingredients to make 12 poppers (2 pans)

1 1/2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, + softened butter for greasing pans
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
Optional: One or two  1″ piece of Gruyere cheese.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Generously grease popover pans with softened butter. Place the pans in the hot oven for exactly 2 minutes to preheat. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, eggs, milk, and melted butter until smooth. The batter will be liquid thin. Fill the popover pans less than half full and bake for exactly 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown and tall. If you have window in your oven, watch the show. Otherwise, don’t peek.

Serve immediately with breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

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Seattle’s Spinasse Charms the Palate and Soul

The moment I arrived at Spinasse (pronounced speh-nah-say), in the gastronomically-gifted Capitol Hill area of Seattle, I was in love.  On the street level of this handsome, multi-storied brick building,  an intimate spot welcomes us with charming outdoor seating consisting of wooden plank tables, surrounded by a whimsy of colorful chairs.  An old-world iron sign hangs above the quaint entrance door, of which the window is tastefully etched “Cascina Spinasse.”

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A peek through the glass is like looking into a rustic Italian farmhouse. Wooden trestle tables with knotty imperfections imply generations of celebrations with suppers and wine that had been consumed around them. Soft and delicate ivory lace curtains grace the front windows, wrought-iron chandeliers illuminate the cozy space, and mismatched wood and marble countertops suggest a sense of history and soul.  Any more rustic, and I’d have arrived by wagon.

We sit in a cozy corner table next to the window,  but this isn’t a quiet dinner spot at the 8 o’clock hour by any means. Conversations just inches away give the entire space a comforable, convivial vibe.

Spinasse Door Love and Relish

I knew that Spinasse was one of those places that is hotly acclaimed by fervent foodies. It’s easy to understand why, with robust platters of pan-roasted rib eye with plums and spring onions, lovage and balsamic, to a light arugula, fennel, prosciutto cotto and green bean salad with cherry tomatoes and fennel maioneses – everything is lovingly prepared, oiled, and seasoned.

The pasta is capable of achieving density and delicacy at the same time, in the fine hand cut egg pasta (tamarin) with butter sage – a classic Spinasse dish – or hearty cavatelli with beef short rib and shoulder ragu with marinated cherry tomatoes and parmigiana.  Everything is a masterpiece that pays homage to northern Italian region of Piemonte (Piedmont),  under the creative and passionate direction of Executive Chef Stuart Lane.

Lane attended the Italian Culinary Institute in a castle in Piemonte at Costigliole d’Asti.  He later staged at the Hotel Monte del Re in Dozza Italy outside of Bologna in the heart of Emilia-Romagna.  While there, he crafted tortellini by the thousands and was immersed in the Italian food culture. Today, Lane oversees the menus at Spinasse and the adjacent casual Italian eatery and bar, Artusi.   He is passionate about Piemonte, and you can taste it in the food and in the wine.

Photos by Suzi-Pratt.com
Executive Chef Stuart Lane Photo by Suzi-Pratt.com
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Uovo con fonduta – poached egg with parmigiano fondue and fried sage.
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Pio Tosini 14 month aged prosciutto with cantaloupe and laudemio olive oil. Green bean salad with prosciutto cotto.

handmade pasta

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Tarajin al burro e salvia – Hand-cut egg pasts with butter and sage. Photo by Suzi-Pratt.com
Agnolotti di melanzana
Agnolotti di melanzana – eggplant and anchovy agnolotti with peperonata and parmigiano.

handmade pasta Spinasse

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Cavatelli al ragu di manzo – Cavatelli with beef short rib and shoulder ragu with marinated cherry tomatoes and parmigiano. Photo by Suzi-Pratt.com

Barbaresco

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Mascarpone cheese cake with huckleberries.

Overall, the experience is one to remember. The interior is charming and picturesque, with the kitchen-view dining as a portrait in craft, as well as a warm welcome to this old world space. Spinasse is one of Seattle’s most delicious places. I can’t wait to go back.

Meet “Red,” my un-welcomed drinking partner

Ask anyone who has spent enough time drinking with me and they’ll tell you that before long I’ll ask them, “Is my face red?”  I know it drives them crazy, but I have to say, the idea of having “Asian Flush” is something I get quite anxious about, because not only is it unattractive and physically uncomfortable, a candy apple red face would generally appear that I’m drunk, when I’m not.

Patiently, they always say what I want to hear, which is, “No, it’s not red.”  But, I never believe them; I know that “Red” has arrived (or will very soon) because my face (and entire body) is flushed and she always arrives after I’ve had some alcohol.  And when I say “some,” I mean just a few sips. That’s all it takes to turn this girl, who started the evening in complete composure into an insecure walking red beacon, as if calling attention to everyone around.   It’s done.  “Red” has made her entrance.  She is going to stay for the rest of the night, and I never invited her.

“Red” also brings along the dreadfully numbing and buzzing sensation that I get deep in my ears, and this feeling as though my ears are going to pop off like Mrs. Potato Head after she’s been thrown across the room by a tantrumming two-year-old.  Crazy, I know.   It’s generally a miserable feeling, but not nearly as miserable as knowing that “Red” has arrived.

Why do I turn red and you don’t?  Alcohol is broken down in two steps.  Sadly, I get stuck at the end of the first step.  Without getting too scientific, once alcohol enters the body, it breaks down to aldehyde (step one).  Actually, in 80 percent of Asians, this step happens faster than the rest of the population. Then, aldehyde – which is toxic – breaks down further into harmless substances, with the help of an enzyme (step two).  I’m missing this magic enzyme.

The aldehyde that is left stuck in my body after the first step  dilates my blood vessels, essentially turning my skin red. So yeah, that’s the reason for my red face. I’m not drunk. I’m not angry. I’m not holding my breath. I’m not bashful. I’m just stuck with “Red,” the unwanted visitor who invariably arrives late to my party.

Booch in yer Bouche: Taste-testing Kombucha

I won’t forget the day when my neighbor carefully peeled off a layer of rubbery slime from her fleshy live culture, handed it to me in a jar with a splash of cool tea, and encouraged me to home-brew this stuff called kombucha (thanks).  She claimed it was a miracle drink, yet after weeks of entertaining this fermented tea “experiment,” I decided, nah. All this trouble for something that just isn’t creating miracles. Nor, did it taste any good. I prefer my tea with cream and sugar, not microbials, thank you.

Now, ten years later, with grocery stores featuring fermented products, such as kefir and kimchi, kombucha, a sweet-tart effervescent tea brewed with a culture of yeast and bacteria, is fast-becoming a drink that is moving from the natural food isle to the mainstream. I decided to give it another try, but this time, I’d purchase already-made kombucha.

I coaxed my husband, Craig, to partake in a kombucha tasting. Surely, he can remember our kombucha trials back in the day. He was patient and open-minded, almost methodical.  He would handle the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) with extra clean hands and prepare just the right amount of tea, before securing the cheese cloth over the 8-quart, food-grade bucket.  After fermentation, he’d carefully peel off the  “friendship” layer that had grown over the week, and try to pawn it off to friends, just like our neighbor did to us. He stills gets the shakes to think that we’d actually offer what he calls “SCOBY’s placenta” as a gift of health.

I also grabbed our friend Kirk Peterson, who is like the ultimate tasteBUD.  If he were one of the X-Men, he would be “Olfacto,” with his hyper-sensitive olfactories effortlessly tearing apart and exposing subtle smells and flavors in their futile attempt to hide in food and wine.  For sure he’d enlighten us.

So, we knew that kombucha had been passed around the globe from culture to culture (pun intended) as an elixir, claiming to provide a string of healthy perks, from aiding digestion, to promoting vitality.  None of them are at present scientifically verifiable, however. We wondered why kombucha was becoming so popular. Perhaps it was all in the taste.

Original

First up was Health-ade’s  Original. (Calories: 30-40/ bottle Sugar: 2-3 g/bottle Alc: < .5%)

Contained in an old-time pharmaceutical bottle, the kombucha tasted like a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar.  It also smelled slightly of bruised apples, was lightly carbonated, and wasn’t too different from the home brew we used to make.  We also tried the pomegranate-flavored version, which tasted similar to the original, but with a sour cranberry-esque aspect.

Pomegranate

GT’s, Classic-Original(Cals: 60/bottle; Sugar: 4 g/bottle) which requires an ID at checkout for its elevated alcohol (higher than .5%) , was darker in comparison to Health-ade. It was more aromatic, with a powerful odor of fresh fermentation, higher fizz and acid, and overall more flavorful.

GTs classic originalAlways hoping for the flavored version to be better,  we also tried GT’s Strawberry Serenity, which is made of raw, organic kombucha and strawberry puree.  Personally, this drink didn’t take me to any California strawberry farm.  Kirk described it best, “The bruised strawberry character to the framework of the Original honestly seemed out of place, like the last sad basket of strawberries at the market no one will buy.” Ouch!

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Moving on,  we then tried Kevita (Cals. 35/bottle; Sugar 8 g/bottle; Alc. < .5%).  This brand does not offer an original flavor, so we tasted two flavored ones, the first of which was Lavender Melon. It definitely smelled like a lavender sachet and it was somewhat sweet on the palate, thanks to the addition of stevia, but, “it was rather artificial tasting for an “all natural” type of product and it tasted eerily like Grape Zotz – those fizzy candies you used to eat as a kid and forgot about until just now.”

Kevita LavenderMelon

Finally, we tried Kevita’s Pineapple Peach.  Tasting quite sweet, we also found that the flavors were very much at home against the backdrop of kombucha. In terms of being the most accessibly-flavored, this was clearly the winner of our tasting. Nothing like saving the best for last.KeVita-Master-Brew-Kombucha-Pineapple-Peach

So, do we like our tea with cream and sugar, or perhaps with a dose of live bacteria?  Let’s be honest.  We like fermented things, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, miso – all good – but all fermented things considered, we prefer fermented grape juice.

Las Vegas Epicurean Affair – A Delicious Soiree

The Las Vegas Epicurean Affair is without a doubt one of the premier events to attend in Las Vegas to satisfy your inner gourmand.  It takes place one night a year in the most gorgeous setting – the Palazzo pool deck – and guests are treated to the most delicious soiree featuring nearly the city’s most renowned chefs, along with 80 restaurants, nightclubs and beverage purveyors.

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Photo: Erik Kabik
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Photo: Erik Kabik

This year, on May 26, more than 2,300 guests mingled under the stars on the most perfect night and enjoyed tastings of dishes and specialty cocktails from the illustrious restaurants of The Venetian and The Palazzo, including AquaKnox, B&B Ristorante, B&B Burger & Beer, Carlo’s Bakery, Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, db Brasserie, Delmonico Steakhouse, Hong Kong Café, Lagasse’s Stadium, Lavo Italian Restaurant, Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro, OTTO Enoteca Pizzeria, Public House, SUSHISAMBA, Table 10, and Tao Asian Bistro; as well as other local celebrated restaurants both on and off the Strip, including The Capital Grille, Carmine’s, Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant, Hash House a Go Go, Il Mulino, Katsuya, Origin India, Shake Shack, Texas de Brazil and Triple George.

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Photo: Erik Kabik
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Photo: Erik Kabik
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Photo: Erik Kabik
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Photo: Erik Kabik

In addition to culinary delights, live band The Lift with special guest star Corinne Zarzour entertained the crowd while synchronized mermaids the Water Beauties put on a show in the main pool.

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Photo: Erik Kabik

Proceeds from the evening will fund NvRA’s educational and scholarship programs, including ProStart®, a national high school culinary skill and restaurant management program.

With so many amazing restaurants in Las Vegas, this event will give you a taste of the best the city has the offer.  Then, go back and make a few reservations at your favorite picks!

Top Italian Wine Lists in Las Vegas

Sipping through Italy is as simple as selecting from the top Italian wine lists in Las Vegas: B&B Ristorante, Carbone, Costa di Mare, Ferraro’s and Carnevino Italian Steakhouse. Ambitious in their endeavors, each one offers wide-ranging diversity, plunging deeply into Italy’s favorite food: wine.  These lists are the products of imagination, energy, resources, dedication and passion for Italian wine. Below is a SMALL snapshot of wines cultivated for you, along with virtual tastings that are best enjoyed with a glass and fork.

  1. B&B Ristorante
    B&B Ristorante Las Vegas Love and Relish Blog

Marchesi di Gresy “Gaiun-Martenenga” Barbaresco, 1996
Giacomo Conterno “Monfortino Riserva” Barolo, 1958
Ca’ del Bosco “Cuvée Prestige” NV, Franciacorta
Poggio di Sotto, Brunello 2004

Tip: An all Italian and Champagne list with the most comprehensive offerings of Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, and Super Tuscans in the city, as well as selections from every major wine producing region in Italy.

Pairing: Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco “Vorberg Riserva” 2012

“Nestled in the northeastern corner of Italy in Alto Adige, storybook vistas and vineyards are framed by the Dolomite mountain range. Pinot Bianco reaches its pinnacle of expression here. Smooth and silky in texture, it seduces you with peach, citrus, and white flower aromas that give way to delicate musk, mineral, and cedar flavors. Tremendously age-worthy and astonishingly versatile, it can be enjoyed by itself, or with B&B’s warm lamb’s tongue with chantrelle mushrooms and a three-minute egg.”

Kirk Peterson
– Kirk Peterson, Beverage Director, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, Las Vegas.

 

  1. CarboneKen Fulk - Carbone - Red Room credit-Douglas Friedman SM

Capezzana, Ghiaie Della Furba, Toscana, 1988
La Scolca, D’Antan, Gavi,  2004, Gavi 2004
Cantina Fratelli Pardi, Sacrantino di Montefalco, 2009
Donnafugata, Ben Rye, Passito di Pantelleria 2013

Tip: The wine list boasts rare old vintages of great wines ranging from Super Tuscans going as far as the 1930s, to Recioto’s from Veneto going back to the 1960s. The list also offers small, esoteric biodynamic producers from not so well known Italian regions.

Pairing: Lunae Bosoni, Etichetta Nera, Vermentino, Colli di Luni DOC 2014
What a great expression of Vermentino. Grown in this unique region stuck between Liguria and Tuscany, right on the Ligurian Sea, which reflects in the glass with bright and pleasant notes of fresh morning sea breeze, brings great complexity to otherwise powerful aromas of just ripe green apple, quince skin and acacia, still fresh and vibrant with no oak influence. Have it with Carbone’s Caesar Salad, and don’t forget the marinated anchovies.”

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– Hristian Iliev, Lead Sommelier, Carbone.

 

  1. Costa di MareCosta Di Mare Wynn

Castello CONTI Boca, Piemonte, 1989
Punta Crena ‘Ca da Rena’ Pigato, Liguria, 2014
Antinori ‘Solaia’ Toscana, 1985
Benanti ‘Serra della Contessa’, Sicilia, 2011

Tip: In addition to its unique and diverse wine list, Costa di Mare features one of the most memorable Italian after-dinner Italian drink selections in town.

Pairing: Vodopivec Vitovska 2010

“Vitovska is a white grape from the Carso appellation of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. The wine has a light, amber color with an orange tint, aromas of peach, pear and slightly oxidized apple with smoke, in the mouth it is dense, with weight, yet not heavy, honeyed yet dry and full of mineral flavors. Vitovska makes a very fascinating food wine that will make you wonder why you never heard about before! Pairs very well with our grilled Langoustines- Scampi vivi imperiali alla griglia, finished with some extra virgin olive oil!”

Miklos
– Miklos Katona, Wine Director, Costa di Mare.

  1. Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar
    Ferraros Las Vegas Love and Relish Marisa Finetti

Giacomo Conterno, Monfortino Riserva, Barolo, 2008
Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, Brunello, 2007
Passopiciaro, Guardiola, Nerello Mascalese, Sicilia, 2012
Tenuta San Leonardo, San Leonardo, Trentino, 2007

Tip: Ferraro’s offers an excess of 200 different Barolo and Barbaresco – many of them as verticals of the best producers of Piemonte, including Giacomo Conterno, with eight vintages from Cascina Francia and Monfortino.

Pairing : Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia, Barolo, 2008

“The star vintage in the last decade is the 2008, which has integrated tannins, leather, cigar box, sour cherries, beautiful balance and a long finish. Should wait a few more years before drinking, and will go well with coniglio brasato (braised rabbit).”

Gino Ferraro Las Vegas Love and Relish blog
– Gino Ferraro, Owner Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar.

  1. Carnevino24400815255_db3524d15b_z

Produttori del Barbaresco “Ovello” 2008
Vietti “Villero Riserva” Barolo, 2004
Bellavista “Gran Cuvée”, Franciacorta, 2008
Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1974

TIP:  With its vast number of options from Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, and the rest of Italy as well as selections from other parts of the world, Carnevino is also home to one of the most extensive collection of Amari. In addition, the cocktail program offers a dedicated Farmer’s Market cocktail, which showcases the freshest ingredients of the season.

Green Goddess Chimichurri Sauce Recipe

In Argentina, grilled meats hardly go without chimichurri “green goddess” sauce.  I love the versatility of this sauce because besides also being a fantastic marinade, it tastes great on a crunchy green or tomato salad, and is also delicious on grilled flatbread, even over eggs in the morning 🙂

The tart acid and slight heat in the sauce brighten up the grilled meat and just keeps you coming back for more. This recipe should be enough for dinner for 4 people or 3 lbs. of flat iron or skirt steak.

2 cups Italian parsley
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp lemon
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup or more olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh oregano
1/4 cup fresh spearmint or mint (optional)
1 tsp crushed red pepper (or more)

Combine all ingredients in a blender to make a paste.  I like my sauce a little thiner than Italian pesto sauce.

Marinate 2-3 lbs. skirt steak or flat iron steak over night. Reserve the other half for serving.  Remove the steak approximately 30 minutes before grilling.  Grill to medium rare. Watch the meat just disappear!  Enjoy!

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Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen showcases Sonoma County wines

Could I have chosen a favorite wine that night?

“No favorites…” I was reminded by Dry Creek Kitchen’s wine director Rolando Maldonado.  As if each bottle of wine was a child of his own, not one would be singled out.  Of course, he’s right.  Every bottle and varietal is so perfectly suited to certain foods and/or occasions. But, the selection of Sonoma County wines he showcased paired so harmoniously with every dish, I tended to exclaim, “I love this!  They go so well together, perhaps my favorite!”

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Wine Director, Rolando Maldonado

I hadn’t been to Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, CA in 10 years.  But, last week I had the opportunity to dine there again with two close friends during a work trip.  I loved it then, and I love it even more now. We met Rolando, who maintains Dry Creek Kitchen’s focus on all-Sonoma County wine selections. Rolando honors the traditions and people of Sonoma County by offering bottlings of passionate producers, burgeoning varietals, and well-loved classics. In collaboration with Dry Creek Kitchen’s chef, Rolando creates pairings that highlight the flavors and ingredients of Sonoma County to deliver truly memorable dining experiences.  Below are visual highlights from the evening. Delicious food.  Delicious wine.

Dry_Creek_Kitchen menu

The setting: A cold, rainy February night in the charming town of Healdsburg.  After tromping through soft, rain-soaked vineyard soils while witnessing unusually early bud break in neighboring Geyserville, I was ready to drink some wine.

Cut to: Interior of Charlie Palmer Dry Creek Kitchen, with a staff committed to gracious conviviality, the atmosphere is welcoming, natural, and elegantly California wine country.

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Dunstan’s rosé of pinot noir 2013. 99 cases produced. Lucky to have tasted this gem!
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Surprise appetizer with foie gras
Front Porch rosé of grenache/syrah from Russian River valley
Front Porch rosé of grenache/syrah from Russian River valley
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Quivera Dry Creek Valley Grenache 2012
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A product of Hank and Maggie, Skewis pinot noir 2013
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Risotto with parmesan trio
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Syrah-braised Sonoma lamb shank with Brussels sprouts, turnips, celeriac espuma, lobster mushrooms, and rosemary lamb jus
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Special that day – beet-infused tagliatelle
Martinelli's Muscat of Alexandria coats the mouth with rich honeysuckle, mango, lychee, passion fruit, vanilla and sweet spices. Delish.
Martinelli’s Muscat of Alexandria coats the mouth with rich honeysuckle, mango, lychee, passion fruit, vanilla and sweet spices. Delish.
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Portalupi dessert wine to finish the evening.
The one I was calling my "favorite." 2014 UNTI Cuvee Blanc - 50% vermentino, 40% granache blanc, and 10% Picpoul. Only 490 cases produced. I'd love to taste it again. A trip back to Healdsburg, I guess.
The one I was calling my “favorite.” 2014 UNTI Cuvee Blanc – 50% vermentino, 40% granache blanc, and 10% Picpoul. Only 490 cases produced. I’d love to taste it again. A trip back to Healdsburg, I guess.

Studying wine by smelling, tasting, and doodling

Let’s face it.  I’m no Joan Miro. Which is why I’m always so impressed by the creative and artistic abilities of others.  But lately, I’ve been making the attempt – to sketch while I sip.

Here I was, taking notes of the many different wines along the way, when I suddenly started to notice that words on paper alone weren’t actually helping me remember what it was that I had tasted.

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Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux 1985, from dad’s cellar, enjoyed on what would have been his 80th birthday (1.4.16)

I can usually recall the occasion and the company with which the wine was shared (“A toast to new friends!”)  I also typically remember the food that accompanied it. (“Remember that incredible pot roast we made…?”) But after a while, some of the basic information just starts to fade (“What was the name of the producer again?”)

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A delicious gift given to me by my client, T. Lawyer.

So, one day I started sketching the label alongside my notes. Oh,  I don’t spend too much time on it (as you can see).  But, it seems to be just enough time to take notice of a few key visual characteristics.  This helps me remember.  My olfactory and gustatory senses are working all the while, of course 🙂

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Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige is one of my favorite sparkling wines. Shared on Christmas 2015.

You see, unlike a sommelier or a wine merchant who handles bottles upon bottles day after day,  I only get to see and/or taste a wine sometimes only once.  And, I’ll also add that the wine app that allows you to snap a photo of the label wasn’t helping me too much, either.

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Christmas gift from friend K. Peterson. Had this wonderful producer just a week earlier (Albe). Both yummy.

So, if you see me take out my little red notebook, don’t judge. I’m studying wine by smelling, tasting, doodling … and now remembering!  It’s old school, but it works.

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Opened during a bocce ball tournament with brother- and sister-in-law Chris and Jen. We had Italian wine, too!