Friday, July 30, 2010

Terra Savia: Wine you have to experience

Sometimes we food writers and creators forget that not everyone knows the how and why. When I spoke with Yvonne over at Terra Savia, I realized that while people love wine, they may not always quite understand all the terms or why a winery makes a certain thing a particular way. Jim Milhone, Terra Savia's winemaker, was kind enough to fill in some blanks. Thanks, Jim!

Luna’s Kitchen Magic: Being successful with your olive trees, making olive oil and specialty honey, what made you want to branch out into wine as well?

JAM: Well it was a natural progression of products as well as good fortune. The land best suited for our olive mill was occupied by a mature organic vineyard and an experienced winemaker. (Sanel Valley Vineyards & Jim Milone) As Jurg and I discussed the possibilities of working together we found we shared similar philosophies about food, wine, agriculture and the environment. The rest as they say…….. is history.

LKM: What inspired you to choose the varietals you offer?

JAM: Those varieties were chosen and planted by my father and I years ago. Having made wine from this vineyard for over 30 years it became evident that these varieties made the best wine from this location. I am a firm believer in planting what makes the best wine. In the wine world like real estate it has always been location, location location.

LKM: are all of your grapes hand harvested?

JAM: Yes

LKM: On the website, you say your Blanc de Blanc is “Allowed to remain on the yeast in “Tirage” for 26 months”. Can you explain what that means?

JAM: In the traditional method of producing Champagne the wine is fermented in the same bottle that is delivered to the consumer. The sparkling wine gets its sparkle from that fermentation. After the fermentation is complete the now sparkling wine is aged in the bottle to add complexity and softness to the wine. This is the “Tirage” or laying down process. Generally the longer the better but it is the winemakers call as to when the wine is ready.

LKM: What difference does French Oak vs. a stainless steel barrel make in the wine?

JAM: Stainless steel is inert and imparts no flavor or aroma to the wine. If you want to reserve the pure profile of the grape it would be the recommended storage vessel. Oak on the other hand imparts various flavors and aromas depending on the type of oak, where it is grown, how the barrel is made, and the duration and condition of the wine in the barrel. This is a whole science in itself.

LKM: One of your Chardonnay’s is made in the French style while the other seems very California. Is there a story here?

JAM: My idea of winemaking is to produce varietal wines that are true extensions of the grape. Our no oak chardonnay is exactly that. This is what chardonnay taste like grown in my front yard (location, locaton etc). The barrel aged tradition started mainly in Western Europe. People used what they had available to them. In France it was oak. In other countries different type of aging vessels were used. The French style has become the benchmark for quality. Any winemaker who is making chardonnay is going to feel the urge to experiment…………….we are all a little bit “mad scientist”. And chardonnay lends itself to various styles of wine. So for diversity and the never ending “experiment” we have two style of chardonnay.

LKM: How did you choose which varietals to use in your Meritage?

JAM: The first decision is made over time as I mentioned above about choosing what grows best in this location. The final decision is made by tasting all the wines after vinification and deciding what combination makes the best wine.

LKM: where did the idea for the Hoplander come from?

JAM: Before I became involve in the Terra Savia project I decided to make a very idealistically produced Meritage. Holding back nothing and only bottling what I felt was excellent above the rest of the production. When I told Jurg about the project we again found common ground. It is not something that happens every vintage……………. But when it does it is worth the wait. The name is about my history…….. I am a fourth generation winegrower in Hopland.

LKM: why did you choose to go 100% Chardonnay for your Blanc de Blanc?

JAM: This is the traditional grape used for the “white of whites” or Blanc de blancs of Champagne. For us it is another opportunity to show what pure chardonnay from our big organic garden taste like.

Want more? Listen to my interview with Yvonne about olive oil and honey!

*Special thanks to Pecos and Jim for providing the photos!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Epicurious, 15 years and counting

"In some ways it's trying to be ahead of the curve a little bit and figure out what people want and don't have yet." Tanya Steel on what's next for Epicurious.

Long before I went to culinary school, I loved to cook and bake. Like many people I hunted around for the best recipes to test out my skills on. Epicurious has been a go to me for a long time for many reasons. It is convenient, easy to navigate and always has recipes that translate to 'yum!'
It was also a fantastic resource in school for when you needed something last minute and didn't have time to go through a ton of books to find what was needed.

When I heard that Tanya Steel was going to be in San Francisco and that Bay Area food bloggers were being offered the chance to sit down with her, I jumped at it. Who wouldn't want to sit down with the Editor in Chief of one of the most well recognized online recipe sites in the world?

Epicurious is 15 years old, and for the last five years has been led by Tanya Steel. They've won 62 awards and they are an amazing daily online publication for food and drinks. The growth they have shown since their inception shows that the passion for good food gets stronger everyday.

Tanya herself is warm, friendly and open, so it made me infinitely more comfortable to sit down with her and talk about what's new, what's good and what's next. Also, two days after I met her, I got to see her on Hell's Kitchen which was pretty awesome.

Oh and in case you don't know, Tanya wrote Real Food for Healthy Kids with Tracey Seaman and during our chat expressed a desire try and help tackle childhood obesity and food insecurity. Here are some kid friendly recipes from the book.

So now, what's new and good? Well how about Epicurious being the #1 lifestyle IPAD app? They were one of only 9 apps actually launched with the IPAD, which shows good sense on the part of Apple!

As for what's next, Tanya would love to see new growth with cooking for and with kids, healthy eating and entertaining becoming more a part of the Epicurious community, possibly even a spin off site or two. The great part of Epicurious is that they listen to what their readers want and try to be ahead of the curve in providing it.

Where else can you go global with around the world in 80 dishes, discover classic drinks, learn to make fudge, get seasonal recipes, and travel dining all in one site?!

Tanya would also love to provide more content where people can tackle more difficult and unusual dishes. She recognizes that the readers cooking level is growing and wants to be a part of the newest food revolutions. Having more complicated, technique driven dishes on the site is just one exciting idea we discussed.

I can't wait to see what Epicurious does next and I am glad I had the opportunity to tell the Editor in Chief how much I love the site and hear what excites her about working with Epicurious and helping people to learn more about cooking at home.

"The way for us to do that is to show how easy it is to pull these things together." Tanya Steel on making real food and cooking accessible to everyone.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's all about the cheese: I loaf you!

I admit that it is no secret that I am a longtime cheese lover. There are a few I won't touch: taleggio makes me want to run out of the room. Havarti is a bit bland for me. Brie is good, but there are so many cheeses out there to explore, I couldn't possibly always light upon that one.

I was not very knowledgeable about Tillamook. I knew their mild cheddar made a perfect grilled cheese sandwich when you needed one, with some red onions and a little pepperoncini on wheat. However, I learned at the San Francisco stop of the Loaf Love tour just what I have been missing.

Tillamook is a farmer owned cooperative. The first Tillamook cheese plant was established in 1894, so you can bet they have plenty of practice getting it right. They have a visitor's center and cafe, so it looks like we all need to trek over to Oregon! The gang from Tillamook are fun know how to throw a party and are really great dressers!

Heather and I were early and enjoyed watching from across the street as people stopped and smiled, laughed and took pictures of the Baby Loaf buses. Truly these babies really do have a way of making you happy. I mean how can you not smile when you see them?

As they make their way across the country, or parts of it, you to can meet up with these cutest of little buses carrying some really tasty cheese. Oh, and you get to pose with them too! Here's Heather with a Baby Loaf.

I was also reminded just how good beer is with cheese! Really you have to do a tasting with beer and cheese. You will be delightfully surprised. Go for something exciting or spicy to pair with your cheeses and you won't believe your taste buds. Big thanks to Coney Island Beer et al!

The event took place at the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, who whipped some amazing treats for us, including Heidi's amazing blondies, the Piglet Tillamook sharp cheddar, artisan cured ham, apple mustard, rosemary butter, and the Jalapeño Popper chèvre, monterey jack, applewood-smoked bacon, apricot-jalapeño relish.

All of the cheeses were tasty and it was great to be able to try all of the different varieties available.
 I really loved two specific cheeses, the Vintage Extra White Sharp

and the Smoked Medium Cheddar which in no way diminishes any of the others!

One of my favorite cheese combinations ever is one introduced to me by my soul mother, Althea. We would get crusty bread, smoky cheese and pumpkin oil. Then we would drink wine and feast. Smoky cheddar and pumpkin oil are positively brilliant together. Trust me.

There was some fun swag, like a magazine and a squeezey cheese loaf! And the atmosphere of the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen is nice and homey. It is also a nice walk from the BART, and right across from 21st Amendment Brewery, so it's an all around win, right?!

Thank you so much to the Tillamook team who was kind enough to fit me in at the last minute, and to the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen for hosting and cooking!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Savory Cocktails with CUESA and more!

When it comes to cocktails I may not know how to make them but I know what I like. And I like that I won a pair of tickets to the CUESA savory cocktail from the fabulous Drink Me magazine, an event which gave me the opportunity to try drinks from some of the mixologists in San Francisco.

I love events such as this one; you get a chance to try so many varieties of greatness and you don’t have to go far to do it. This was a cocktail crawl of magnificent proportions: all savory and made from the freshest ingredients found at the farmer’s market.

Kate Bolton from Wexler’s had one hell of an amazing cocktail, refreshingly light with fennel, oranges and a spritz of Absinthe. I could easily see this as a welcome addition to any brunch menu with its cool flavors and clean stimulating balance.

Kyle Ford made us a Jaguar Sun, tequila, oranges and the Aztec Elixir (a coffee syrup that would make even the most coffee wary a convert.) He let us try it alone and the thick rich syrup made me want to take it home and make ice cream with it. Or maybe something with mascarpone and fruit.

Michael Callahan of Gitane brought home a winner with a lamb neck sausage infused bourbon based cocktail that blended with Cynar, lavender bitters and a garnish of radish and sausage that made the drink tastier and interactive. I liked the combo of the sausage with the cocktail, but I loved the cocktail with the radish. Since it had a spicy back, the radish was perfect to help balance it out.

Lauren Kino of Plum had an appetizer of pork and peaches, a concoction that was simply lovely. The flavor combination was a total winner. Now I am even more excited about the impending opening of Plum here on my side of the Bay!

This is the second time I have been able to sample the wares of Tacolicious, which I think is worth seeking out. The offering here was a crispy taco with a bean spread, shredded pork and cabbage that was so delicious it makes my mouth water just to think about it!

Comstock Saloon had a pisco sour (with secret green liquid, oooh!) and Carlos Espinas’ take on a hangtown fry: crisp bread with a pickled egg, crispy bacon and oyster vinaigrette. This was inventive and fun, crispy in all the right spots.

Robert Gonzales, the USBG Nor Cal ambassador, was the best showman of the night, presenting a gorgeously composed lime, egg white, cilantro, tequila cocktail with spicy sea salt and bitters made with pepper skins. It was fun watching him slap the cilantro and double shake the cocktails!

The GLBT Proud Mary from Greg Lindgren at Rye went for interactive as well, with lettuce and baconnaise on white bread paired with a lettuce, gin, bacon & tomato cocktail for dipping. I wasn’t crazy about the cocktail alone, but as a dipper, you don’t get much better! And thank you to the delightful Heather as our interactive model!

Far and away my favorites were the blendings by the peeps at 15 Romolo: Katy Borzee rocked with the unexpected but smashing combo of white bean puree with peaches and crispy bacon. Never would I have thought of peaches and white beans together, but tasting my way through the rest of the apps, this one stood out strongly in my mind.

Her bar counterpart, the equally adorable Ethan Terry brought it all home with the Sherman Breakdown, pink peppercorns, fresh sage, nutmeg, Luxardo, cahacha and the piece de résistance: smoked apricots! This cocktail had everything I wanted; it was rich, smoky and elegant.

This cocktail blended all that a savory cocktail should be, and was indeed a shining star in the drink heavens.

This is by far one of the best events I have gotten to attend: amazing drinks, wonderful people, the beauty of San Francisco and my friend Heather, who was nice enough to come with me and enjoy the bounty of the farmer's market based cocktails! Can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baked Apple Fritters

Breakfast should be simple and tasty. So I adapted a recipe from Food Down Under for a quick, tasty breakfast that includes fruit!

1 egg
2/3 c ww Pastry Flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 c half and half
1 large apple, peeled and cored. I grated half and then chopped half for texture.

preheat the oven to 400 C. Beat the egg, then add dry & wet ingredients. Grate in half the apple, then chop the rest and toss it in. Fold together until just mixed.

I baked it 10 minutes in a small buttered cake pan. Fast, easy and delicious!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Quick & Easy Chocolate Pudding

1 c milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cocoa powder(or more if you like chocolatey)
3 tbsp brown sugar (or to taste)
2 tsp vanilla

Whisk first four ingredients in a saucepan. Turn heat to medium, cook until mixture is hot, (not boiling) stirring constantly. This important, it's in that moment that it will overcook! Turn heat to low and cook until thick. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and enjoy!

Even  better, you can add whipped cream and fruit for an easy & fabulous parfait.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cashew Brownies w/White Chocolate Frosting

1 c vanilla sugar *+ 1 c roasted, unsalted cashews, pulsed together (though not fine3/4 c peanut oil
3 eggs
1 c buttermilk
2 c flour
1 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

Frosting: 12 oz white chocolate, melted w/2 tbsp half & half
1 c powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp half & half (if needed)

To make Brownies: Preheat oven to 325 F.

Combine dry ingrediants and set aside. Combine oil with sugar nut mix. Add eggs one at a time until just combined. Add butter milk, then dry mix. Do not overmix.

Pour out into a wax paper lined small cookie sheet. Bake @ 325 F for 20-30 minutes, or until cooked through.

While Brownies are baking, combine melted chocolate, sugar and extra half and half if needed. Spread frosting ontop Brownies, slice and enjoy!

If you like your desserts sweeter, you can add up to one more cup of sugar, though I think the frosting makes it plenty sweet enough!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Whoopie for Whoopie Pies!

United Cakes of America review part 2

Next up were the Whoopie Pies, which I made for my birthday cake. Okay, it’s not a cake per se but it is delicious and filled with gooey goodness so what is not to love?! I have long searched for the perfect Whoopie Pie recipe and personally I think I found it. The consistency and flavor are spot on and they are really very easy to make.

 I served them with fresh strawberries and a few blackberries after a gorgeous dinner of chicken mushroom Marsala with red potatoes and green beans.

For Whoopie Pies:

Dry Ing

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons Bob's Red Mill, Potato Starch

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

Wet Ing

3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 light brown sugar, packed
1 egg

preheat oven to 350 F. line 2 baking pans with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.

In separate bowls, combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients, set aside.

cream butter and sugars for 3 minutes, then add egg. alternate dry and wet mixture. do this quickly and make sure you scrape down your bowl. This batter is sensitive, so don't overwork it!

Using a 1/2 cup or a 2 oz cookie scoop, drop dough onto sheet pans and make sure they are spaced out. bake 12-15 minutes. i wouldn't use my regular cookie racks to cool these as they would leave a pattern on the soft cakes.

Seven Minute Frosting

1 1/4 cups sugar
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each: vanilla, amaretto, rum (or your preference...I like scotch or bourbon!)

Bring a pan of water to simmer so you can create a double boiler. Combine sugar, egg whites, salt and cream of tartar over the simmering water. beat with a handheld mixer for 7 minutes.

The seven minute frosting is marshmallowy and though it takes a long time, is quite delicious. That being said, I think that next time I will take a half cup of sugar out of the filling as I found it a bit too sweet.

I stored these covered on a plate and you want to make sure you use parchment paper or the like to separate or they stick together.

The major bonus is that after sitting overnight they bear a strong resemblance to that childhood favorite you no longer eat because it is filled with junk. Yeah!!

also next time i want to try some different flavors, maybe adding a bit of fruit puree to the filling just for fun.