Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

Festivities began with lunch at Piccino. Red special: broccoli rabe, pancetta and added on egg for me, cheese, no green for K. Glass of Prosecco just because.

Now we are lounging, planning a mother daughter night with no driving. We have assorted nibbles, as our large, late lunch was pretty filling. I have just opened Alice Feiring's first suggestion of the night Fleury Brut Rosé Champagne. Child very excited by color, I'm quite enchanted by the flavor. This is truly a lovely wine. According to the K&L website, where I purchased it:
The Fleury rosé is made entirely of pinot noir from Courteron, in the southern part of Champagne. Locals proudly say that their town is closer to Chablis than Reims, and the style of wine owes as much to Burgundy as the stylish bottle does to the grand marques of Champagne. The vineyards, which are all owned by Fleury, are farmed 100% biodynamically, the strictest form of organic viticulture. The base wine is entirely from the 2004 vintage. This Champagne, composed of 100% pinot noir, is made by maceration, with all of the skins in contact with all of the juice.

It is very elegant with fruit on the nose. K was hoping it would be sweeter, but, then again, she is 7! Medium pink color, long finish. More and more fragrant as it warms up. I am delighted to have a second bottle for a later date.

I should note that given the year I had, I was completely indecisive on champagne purchases. Luckily, I emailed Alice Feiring and not only did she offer suggestions, but searched the K&L site and sent me off with a shopping list. I purchased at least one of everything on her list and am very much looking forward to trying all of them, just not tonight. Thanks again Alice! I'll get those pickles off Monday.

Some thoughts on resolutions. Not really my thing. But: eat everything from veggie box, drink the good wine and get back into the shape I was in this summer come to mind. Daughter and I also talked about cooking more together, not just baking.

As for year end reflections, that is even harder. But, dish of the year, with no doubt, the egg at Commis.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why I Bake

Before my daughter was born I was not a baker. I'd make cookies occasionally and a cheesecake every few years but regular baking was not on my schedule. To be honest, I did not cook very much either. We ate out a lot and my ex-husband was (and still is) a great cook. I was the forager in the relationship, willing to drive to 4 different stores and markets to find just the right ingredients.

However, the first Christmas after my daughter was born, I bought a kitchen aid and got divorced. I'll leave it to you to ponder the connection between the two. Still, for the first few years after she was born I still didn't bake. To be honest, I rarely cooked anything more complicated than boiling water for pasta. The kitchen aid sat on the counter, shiny and blue, taunting me.

However, once my daughter got a little bit older we became regulars at the Saturday Ferry Building Farmers market. She actually learned to walk in the hall before it filled with stores and people. There she fell in love with the delights at Miette and the bakery's now former owner Caitlin. We had a routine, shop for food and if we made it through the market without trauma she could choose a treat from Miette. One week it would be a cupcake, one week taffy, one week a madeline. Somewhere, there are tourists with pictures of my young daughter eating an old-fashioned cupcake, frosting all over her delighted face. At three she decided that her first job would be working at a bakery.

So what is a mother to do? In my case, it was either time to use the kitchen aid or to go broke on sweets. We made muffins, cupcakes, bread and far too many chocolate chip cookies. Last winter was the winter of the grated carrots as we made muffin after muffin from the carrots in our mystery box. This year we had 3 different cookie baking playdates before Christmas including a cookie party. My advice? Royal icing in squeeze bottles. and shortbread rather than sugar cookies. Also, a bit of almond extract never hurts frosting.

The kitchen aid is now much less shiny but far better used. On my wish list is actually a second bowl so we can do even more. I could really make a good argument that my daughter has learned fractions from helping me bake. Of course, the projects we have done together are the parenting moments I'd like to think she remembers years from now. For the record, I am still scared of fondant and elaborate recipes.

Today, with school out for the week, my daughter has a friend over for a play date. As any parent knows, at 7, two are easier than one. My first thought? Homemade cinnamon raisin bread. So we stirred and mixed and marveled at the bubbling yeast. Impatiently we waited for the dough to rise, not once, but twice. Finally, the bread came out of the oven, mine to be covered with butter and homemade strawberry jam for the kids.

The reason I bake? "Can I have seconds Mama?," from my finicky daughter.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lazy Sunday Cooking

I'm child free today and with the gray morning decided on a lazy day at home. Of course, that means in between "wii exercise," Law & Order reruns and reading, it was a good day to cook.

First thing today was a second batch of chicken liver pate. I had purchased two packs of livers from the Soul Food CSA. The first went to the Christmas pate and the second was too tempting in the fridge. This time I added lots of green garlic from the mystery box and a bit of bourbon for flavoring. I do seem to be cooking with bourbon a lot lately. Must be the season. Saute green garlic until soft, add chicken livers and cook 8-10 minutes, add bourbon, process until smooth and chill. I clearly need a party to take it to.

Currently on the stove is a thrown together pasta sauce. Fresh sausage from the pork prom, onions, garlic, lots of black pepper, herbs and home canned tomatoes. The chance part of the recipe is the addition of a jar of cherry tomatoes we had preserved in vinegar. I rinsed well and have my fingers crossed that the result will not be too acidic. Debating adding some red wine or just opening a bottle to enjoy while I cook. In an hour or so I'll heat up some store bought pasta and see how I did.

Post consumption note: very sad that I gave away so many jars of our tomatoes. The sauce was lovely and perfect with the Nero D'Avola. I was very pleased that there was not too strong a vinegary taste. Next year, even more canned tomatoes! At least I have 8 jars of sauce still.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wines of the Holidays

So, big no on that one thing. No words for that here.

Anyway, wines of the week.
Christmas Eve featured both a Bonny Doon Cigare Blanc 2005 and a 2005 Chateaneuf de Pape Blanc. It was fun to taste them back to back and note the differences. The Cigare Blanc, through no one's fault but my own, was too cold to start out with. once warmed, it was fragrant and a perfect natch to the ham. It is hard for me to be objective about Bonny Doon wines, but this one pleased the guests as well. The CdP was darker in color and heavier in taste. it was much more honeyed and I would have guessed older. I was glad to have this one second. It even did a fairly good job standing up to the walnut pie. I have for many years had a love of white rhone grapes and both of these did nothing to dissuade me.

Christmas was with friends in Marin. Roast beef baked wrapped in bacon, cauliflower gratin, popovers. horseradish, green beans bundled with bacon and more. I had brought both a 2002 and a 2003 Gary Farrell cab, dusty from my poor storage. My preference was for the 2002. Cab is generally not my grape of choice, but the smoothness complimented the meat and was drinkable alone. There were numerous wines available, but I kept returning to the 02.

As always, more when I have time to ponder.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Managing to have a relaxing yet productive day.
Cookies for Santa were made yesterday with Caitlin and Dashiell so no need to bake today. Santa will be enjoying an extra-giant chocolate cookie made with Valrhona chocolate pearls. Currently spreading the rumor that Santa prefers wine to milk.

This morning we finally made it to the Thursday Ferry Building Farmers Market. If I worked downtown,I'd go for lunch weekly. Choices ranged from pizza to tacos to ice cream. I was delighted to have a chili cheese dog from 4505 meats. K did not care for the chicarronne itself, but delighted by the cranberry apple cider sorbet from Scream. We also picked up more Fatter Calf Bacon to add to the freezer of pork and some Rechiutti marshmallows to roast over the fire tonight.

When we got home I made my first ever chicken liver pate, with Soul Food Farms liver and a recipe from Epicurious. I substituted green garlic for regular as I had some from my Mystery Box and herbes de provence for the assortment called for. So far so good, we shall see as it chills. I sure do seem to be cooking with bourbon a lot these days.

On that theme the fresh ham will be prepared with an Emeril recipe using bourbon and coke. I must admit that I have wanted to try ham in coke for a long time and this seems a good opportunity. The amusement this morning was my attempts to cut the 21 lb bone in ham in half. After cutting through the meat with a sharp knife and finding it not strong enough for the bone, I ended up using a hammer. Hammer, ham, maybe it was meant to be?

I'll start roasting in a little bit and then start work on roasted sweet potatoes and apples, mashed potatoes and some sort of salad. Guests are bringing goodies as well and after chatting with Randall Grahm I have a bottle of Cigare Blanc and a white CdP in the fridge.

Ham is roasting away. Cat is very excited. Potatoes are on to boil, while sweet potatoes and apples have been put in the oven to roast. Cauliflower will be done stove top as there is no room left in the oven. Olive oil and red pepper should help it, maybe green garlic as well if I get motivated. For now? Cigare Blanc 2005.

So ham was excellent. My other favorite was the cauliflower. The Mariquita cauliflower is just better. is it soil? Freshness? Special type? I don't know. Leftovers a plenty though. Biscuits, bought by J, also great. I thought the Cigare Blanc with the ham was excellent. Followed with the CdP blanc which was a bit richer, with more honeyed flavors. For sweets, smores (I love the fireplace) and both apple and walnut pie from Mission Pie. Have never had walnut pie before, was most excellent. Anyone have a recipe?

Have convinced K to go to sleep as "Mr Claus" will not arrive when she is awake. Hope "Mr Claus" is still with us next year. Time to finish a glass of wine and head to bed myself. Expecting an early wake up.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Post from K

Hi! My name is K and I am 7.5 years old. I really love cats and am a picky eater. Yesterday with my Dad I made cookies with dough that we bought from Whole Foods. I put honey on half of one and it tasted like a chocolate cookie that I made with my Mom once. It was very big.
At my Mom's house we make our own dough. I've been making a lot of cookies this year for Christmas. My favorite are from the Cookie Swap book. I really like that book. It is one of my favorites.
I won't eat eggs anymore at my Dad's house because they do not have the special CSA (Soul Food) eggs my Mom gets.
Sometimes I get to finger taste wine and my favorite is rose.
I took a gardening class at school and got to taste the first apples ever grown on the tree at school. They were fuji and big and everyone loved them. I did not love the carrots.
I like getting pancakes because they are very yummy.
My favorite pizza is at Piccino cause I like how they put the cheese on. The know my normal order which is cheese with nothing green on it.
My mom and I may make raisin bread today, I like to help knead it and eat it!
I used the potatoes from the veggie box (Mariquita Mystery) in Stone Soup.

(Slight spelling checks by Amy. Happy Holidays all!)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pork Prom

Today I joined a large, impatient crowd at Pork Prom. Organized by some of the same folks behind Eat Real, Pork Prom featured 5 and 10 lb assortments of heritage pork along with hams and some biscuits with bacon and sausage to nibble on. Here is what SF Weekly had to say beforehand:

I was expecting lines, but it took me 1.25 hours from arrival to departure. There was a line to pay, a line for food and another line to pick up the pork. I know that it is hard to run these events, but sometimes the years I spent as an event coordinator come back to haunt me. I can spend a long time in line thinking about different ways to organize things.

That said, I am very excited about my take home. I have 21 pounds of fresh, bone in ham sitting in my fridge waiting for Christmas Eve. In my freezer, I have 4 lbs of ground pork, 3 pounds of pork belly and 3 pounds of jowl. The packages are all labeled with breed and the food the pigs consumed.

I'll do a pasta sauce with our home canned crushed tomatoes and the ground pork. For the belly, either slow roasting in the oven or a chance to use the skills picked up at Makin Bacon. I've been advised (thanks Anita) that my jowl would make great guanciale. Anyone have a garage or basement I can hang some pork in?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pickles and Pizzaiolo

It is strange to think that two years ago I was scared of canning. Today, we can almost monthly and have the confidence and experience to experiment.

Today we pickled spicy carrots, cumin green beans, dill green beans, spicy cauliflower and a combination of carrots, cauliflower and green beans. We also canned a cranberry mustard. Although we had recipes to consult for all of these projects, we experimented with spice combinations and brines. I bought white, orange and purple carrots at the Ferry Building Market this morning and the jars are quite beautiful. I'll need to take a picture after rearranging my canning bookcase. I admit to displaying my projects proudly rather than hding them in the cupboards. Now we are waiting to hear what our January assignment is for: I'm guessing citrus of some sort but we shall see.

After pickling, and probably still smelling of vinegar, we went to Pizzaiolo for a quick early dinner. I started with a scofflaw, the drink that inspired us to can our own grenadine. With the meal I had a glass of Nero d'Avola, the grape discovery of the year for me. In order to try more options we split all of our courses. To start we had endive with crab, creme fraiche and salmon roe. Refreshing and light (in taste if not calories), it took the edge off the hunger I felt after canning all day without lunch. Our second course was gnocchi with a pork ragu that has me eagerly anticipating my pick up tomorrow at Pork Prom. For our main course we split with fried chicken with ceci beans (chick peas) and roasted winter vegetables. It is almost impossible for me to not order the fried chicken when it is on the menu at Pizzaiolo. It is always moist and flavorful though slightly less spicy tonight than usual. Having done a "fried chicken tour" of the Bay Area, it ranks in my top three. We finished with a flourless chocolate cake with sugared hazelnuts and creme anglaise. As always, I was struck by how much I like hazelnuts yet continue to dislike hazelnut flavored items.
Now time to relax and reorganize the freezer to accommodate the pork sampler pack coming tomorrow. After, must clean out the fridge for the fresh ham I have ordered as well. Considering a coke, bourbon glaze but would love suggestions.

Oh, and the person who guesses the closest to my top Christmas wish can have their choice of the jam or pickle.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Birthday Dinner at Commis

So this is when I confess to being a bad blogger. I should have pictures, menus, exact wine names and all of that. But, I don't. There is something about a nice meal with a lovely friend that makes me want to focus on the food and wine and company and not distract myself with extensive note taking and camera flashes.

That said, those who know me know that I have birthday issues. Being born the week before Christmas can be trying for many--combined gifts anyone?--but when your family is in retail, the fact that your birthday may very well be the busiest shopping day of the year can be challenging. I'd like to say I have outgrown this, but, as an adult, my birthday dinner has come to have great meaning for me. When I first moved to the Bay Area, Boulevard was my birthday restaurant and then Jardiniere and finally, for many years, Chez Panisse (Guess what all three have in common?) Then there was the regrettable Disney Land year followed by take out Chinese last year (admittedly followed by a lovely meal and cocktails at Beretta a few days later.)

This year has been a rough year for me. Not all bad, but some true challenges, including the loss of someone truly dear to me. Rather than ramble on, suffice it to say that this year I really needed a treat. Luckily, I found just the place.

Tonight at Commis I was greeted with sparkling wine and sparkling water while I waited. One of the things I really enjoy is the open kitchen and watching the three chefs works. I don't use tweezers often in my kitchen, do you? Once seated we were presented with menus, choice of any 3 of the 10 items listed. Mix and match as you please, which means, I suppose that you could have an all dessert meal.

Our first taste was an apertif of lemongrass soda. Refreshing and fragrant, it was a perfect start. That was followed by one of my favorite tastes of the year. A slowly cooked egg, served over date puree with an onion cream and some granola for texture. This is one of the dishes that ends up being far greater than it sounds. The combination of flavors and textures is compelling. This was served with a French hard cider.

My appetizer, which came after we were presented with house baked rolls and house churned butter, was a black barley with pork jowl. Having had pork the last time we were at Commis I knew that I had to order it again. The barley, a food I rarely cook at home yet often enjoy out, was cooked perfectly, with just enough "chew" left. The pork jowl was crispy and a perfect foil to the grain. Lisa's cardoons with crab and oyster was wonderful in its own right, but I was very happy to have ordered the barley.

For our entrees we were both paired with reds from the Languedoc. My entree was guinea hen, served several ways: cooked sous vide, in terrine and confit with chanterelles, potatoes and the most amazing Brussels sprouts I have ever eaten. I did not know it was even possible for a Brussels sprout to melt in the mouth, but these did. I am imagining that long, slow cooking and lots of fat were involved.

Lisa had the Bison steak with cabbage, sour cherries and cranberries. One of the interesting things about watching this dish prepped was noticing that the chef salts each slice of meat individually after plating.

Our desserts were paired with two very different wines. Mine a sparkling rose and Lisa's a jurancon. This course the highlight was Lisa's kabocha custard. Served with pumpkin seeds, licorice cream, and root beer caramel, it was truly magical. My apple-huckleberry tart was lovely and intriguing with its cheddar ice cream, but the custard was amazing.

After dinner we were presented with absinthe gelees, which, given our membrillo experience we may need to replicate at home.

Often I find that at restaurants with the degree of creativity and artistry involved at Commis, the food is wonderful, yet too intellectual. At Commis, I can marvel over the flavors, but the food still feels comfortable. My mother would be happy there, as well as my restaurant groupie friends. The service is marvelous, managing to be both professional and charming. I've been pleased by the wine pairings on both visits. Both times I have come home with a wine to seek out.

It stands out as the best find of the year in a year when I had much good food and drink.

Thanks again Lisa!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tercero 2007 Syrah

From the Larner Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, 14.2%.
Sadly, I rsvp'ed too late to be included in part two of Twitter Taste Live, Hospice du Rhone. However, Larry from Tercero graciously sent me a bottle of his syrah so I could join in briefly.
Three coworkers, including the editor of our wine series, joined me in the middle of an office going away party yesterday to sample. I must admit that given the office location our tasting was not as extensive as it could be.
First of all, this is a screw top bottle, which made for many questions about aging.
That aside, we got pepper, fruit and tannins with some acid for balance. California syrah are sometimes too jammy for me, but this had enough balance. We thought it was young, but certainly drinkable now. I must admit that I am still pondering the coworker who suggested pairing with paella.

Tasting it again tonight with better glassware, I am really enjoying this wine. It is still young, but has opened up beautifully in my glass. I'd love to put a few bottles away and see what happens over the next few years. Also, really like to try Larry's grenache.

Info about ttl can be found at
Tercero is at

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quick Cornerstone TTL Thoughts

Last night I joined @winebratsf @BrixChick_Liza (with her Dad) + @DreamWildly
for a Twitter Taste Live of Cornerstone Cellars new Stepping Stone Grenache and Cab Franc with an added bonus of their 05 Howell Mountain Cab.

First of all, great company! Though, there is something amusing about a group of people taking a sip of wine and then typing away on their laptops.

I had expected to enjoy the Grenache the most. Not that I did not enjoy it, my notes indicate lots of tannins but also fruit along with pepper. I wanted mushrooms. I thought the Cab Franc, once it had time to breathe was lovely. Someone else suggested lentils and I think that was spot on. It had some roundness to it, but also an herbal quality.

The Cab was a hit with everyone in the room. Slightly dusty with raspberry and plenty of tannins. I'd like to see where this one goes in a few years.

Other note of the night: wine soiree, a swirling device I had never seen before. Rather than decanting you attach it to the bottle and "air the wine" when you pour. Much fun to experiment with.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Menu for Hope

I'll try to write more about this later, but I am delighted that the University of California Press, my employer, has allowed me to support Menu for Hope again this year.

This is the sixth year of A Menu For Hope, the grassroots charity event for wine and food bloggers that started in response to the horrible Tsunamis of 2004. Last year's event raised more than $60,000 for the UN's World Food Programme, which set up a special arrangement so that 100% of the proceeds went to the people we were trying to help.

Our prize this year is:
WB08 Wine Book Bonanza
There's only one thing better than drinking wine, and that's drinking wine with a nice wine book on your lap. Here's your chance to add to your library and maybe learn a thing or two in the process. Courtesy of University of California Press, pick any 5 wine books from their current list of titles. Value: approx $150. UC Press Wine Books - Courtesy of: University of California Press. Bid on this item with code: WB08.

More information is available at

Please support this wonderful cause. I'm off to browse the prizes myself!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cookie Party-The Clean Up

The party was a blast. We set it up as an open house from 10-5 so we had an early group, a late group and many in and out during the day. It was great to see both old friends and new. We even got to meet baby Audrey who is just as gorgeous as she appears in pictures.

Special thanks to everyone for the wonderful treats including scones, jelly doughnuts, Afghan nuts and large amounts of Valrhona chocolate that I have hidden from my child.Also, a picture frame that will be perfect for this year's school picture.

Guests decorated over 80 cookies with homemade royal icing and pounds of sprinkles as well as leftover Halloween candy. Thankfully many took some home or ate here. I do think that K had about 12. We also had cheese and fruit and bagels and assorted other nibbles. I was very excited that my idea to put most of the frosting in squeeze bottles was a success. Much less mess than last time.

As for mess, well, the spider web set up in K's room was both wonderful and easy to clean up. I've also learned that a disposable tablecloth for cookie decorating makes all things so much easier. I know cloth is better for the environment, but the ability to just roll and toss the cloth made me very happy.

K reports that the party was really awesome, the kids loved it and that they ate most of the cookies. A good day.

Cookie Party--the prep

Final preparations are in progress for our cookie party. We have about 35 rsvps, but with kids involved one never knows. Approximately 100 cookies have been baked and are awaiting decoration. Earlier this fall K and I bought a "Cookie Swap" book at our wonderful local food bookstore Omnivore. The author's website can be found here: I have experimented with the basic shortbread recipe in the book and found that with the substitution of almond extract for ground almonds it pleases both picky children and adults.

As for Omnivore, if you have not been there and are a fan of cookbooks or food writing or even collectible books, you really should go. The staff is wonderful and Celia helped K choose from the dozens of cookie books they stock. They also host both author and community events regularly. I feel very lucky that they are just a quick walk away.

Bagels, fruit, cheese and nibbles are ready for those who would like a break from the sweets. I find that my home pickled carrots and green beans are always popular at parties so I'll open a few more jars. Ingredients are plentiful for those who want to bake. Eggnog, I cheated and bought it from the store, is in the fridge and bourbon is available for those who need it. Wine as always is plentiful. All that remains is final clean up and we are ready to go.

I need a nap!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mariquita and Piccino

Once or twice a month, I pick up a mystery box from Mariquita Farms. Mariquita used to sell at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market but now mainly supplies restaurants and their CSA.

In Julia's words, mystery boxes are "Guerilla vegetable deliveries: Not a CSA, we have one of those. More like a taco truck-meets-the farmers market. No prepayment, no credit cards." Boxes, which are really large plastic bags contain a wide variety of products, that change with the seasons. This week they ranged from orange cauliflower to watermelon radishes, to baby leeks and kale. You can find out more about the program here:

I find it both a great bargain--it is an enormous bag--and also some of the best produce available. One of my favorite parts has turned out to be the "mystery" aspect. I've experimented with new vegetables and combinations almost every delivery.My daughter was very excited tonight that the box included potatoes, one of the things that she signed up to contribute to her classroom's "Stone Soup."

Tonight's delivery was at Piccino in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco.

Piccino is a great favorite of mine as well as one of my daughter's preferred restaurants in SF. As I stand in line for our vegetables and bring them out to the car, she heads inside to choose a table and to order, always, a cheese pizza with no green. She reports that it is the best pizza in town.

As for me, I have a little more variety depending upon availability. If the chicken livers are available I often order them and or the meatballs. Tonight I had a sausage pizza with two eggs added on top. For those who have not had egg on pizza I highly recommend trying it. The pizza is presented with two lightly cooked eggs, yolks still runny. In my case I slice them open right away and spread the yolks on all of the slices.I've had this at several Bay Area places including Gialina, Pizzaiolo and Pizzetta 211.

Following our pizzas, my daughter always orders lemon tart with extra whipped cream. I would comment, but fighting her for tastes can be hard. I will say that one of the things I love about Piccino is how they treat my daughter. Although it is very small and can get busy, the wait and kitchen staff have all been kind and accommodating again and again.

Now it is home again, just time for bath and homework before bed for her and a glass of syrah for me. I'm very curious to see what the Mullineux tastes like today.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Twitter Taste Live

Last night two coworkers came over to join me for Hospice du Rhône Twitter Taste Live featuring:

2006 Boekenhoutskloof Syrah, South Africa

2006 The Old Faithful “Cafe Block” Shiraz (single vineyard), McLaren Vale, Australia

2007 Hewitson “Ned & Henry’s” Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia

2007 de Trafford Shiraz Stellenbosch, South Africa

2008 Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia

2008 Mullineux Syrah Swartland, South Africa

This was a very fun night. Essentially we were provided with 6 wines, 3 each from Australia and South Africa and asked to tweet live with other bloggers on the taste Live Site. There was a countdown to start and notification as to when to move on to the next wine (this brought out my ocd, I had to be on the right wine!)

We started with Australia and the Old Faithful. My friends liked this one more than I did. It came in at 15% alcohol and was a big wine to start the night. Lots of fruit, but also oak.
Next up was the Ned & Henry, which I liked more. It was leaner, with lower alcohol and nice spice and was a hit with our bacon pizza. This one I would buy.
We finished our brief tour of Australia with the Torbeck. This one is made from 150 year old vines (nice to have winemaker comments.) It had a very sweet nose that one tweeter described as bubble gum/cotton candy and I had to agree. We were told that this was a very warm year and you could taste that in the wine. Am curious to see how it will taste tonight after being open for 24 hours.

We then moved on to South Africa. We started with the 2006 Boekenhoutskloof Syrah, South Africa which was my favorite of the night. This had a great nose with some great earth and spices. I'm expecting this one to be great today as it would have benefited from decanting. Also expect that it will only improve over the next few years.

Next was the de Trafford. One of my friends suggested that it "smells like a sewer." had to explain that that was not necessarily a bad thing. Earthy, spicy with lots of fruit. Felt that it was a bit hot.

Our final wine of the night was the 2008 Mullineux. This was my second favorite of the night. It was young, but balanced. This one also should be great tonight.

I'll be writing up a bit more tonight as I see what being open overnight does for some of these wines.

So for the Wednesday night report: I'm parenting so drinking very light. Have poured a glass of the Boekenhoutskloof which as expected is truly lovely tonight. I would be very happy with more of this.
Sending the Aussie wines with my ex-husband for a tasting with some of his friends tonight so hopefully can get even more feedback.

More info about Taste Live is available at

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Makin' Bacon-Quick thoughts, more later

Just got back from Makin' Bacon. More info available here:

The class consisted of demos on making homemade bacon from pork belly with a dry rub. To the dry rub you could add maple syrup or any flavoring you like with pork, sweet or savory. That was followed by 3 kinds of sausage with grinding and stuffing. In general, I thought I learned enough that I would be comfortable trying again on my own or better yet with a group, which is always my goal of this sort of class.

To be honest, I think I am A LOT more likely to make bacon rather than sausage. Not only do I eat bacon and cook with it more often, it is simply easier. Sausage, with the need to chop and grind meat and stuff just seems like a special occasion product. I suppose the easier way would be to just make patties.

We tasted a maple, brown sugar bacon as well as a savory garlic bacon which was wonderful. For sausage we had a sage version, a sweet Italian, and my favorite, an unsmoked andouille. All paired with "Bitch" red wine.

They plan another glass in January so keep an eye out. Once I have it, I'll post a link here.

Does anyone make their own sausage? Do you use a kitchen aid grinder or a stand alone?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Brandied cherries

Sadly, did not really feel well enough to go out to dinner tonight. To comfort myself, I'm having homemade brandied cherries with lemonade and some extra brandy mixed in. Kind of like cough medicine, right?

The cherry making was a very long day. I met my friend Lisa in Oakland at 9 a.m. We drove out to Brentwood where we picked 40 lbs of organic apricots (oops) and 20 pounds of cherries. We then headed back to Oakland and spent the entire day canning--brandied cherries, brandied apricots, cherry chutney, apricot chutney, apricot jam and my favorite, apricot amaretto jam. I think we'll make most all of them again next year, but on separate days. That day, I was lucky to make it home by 9 pm!

Lisa and I have been canning together for more than a year now. We've done cherries, apricots, strawberries, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, cranberries, quince, blackberries, pomegranates and I may be forgetting something. I had always been scared of canning, but have found that once you know the basics, it is a great way to take advantage of the farmers market and backyard produce.

Next up are more pickles, hopefully including beets and cauliflower this time. In the future, I hope to acquire a pressure canner for more options.

Any suggestions? Anything that has worked well or failed you? If you are local, come join us some time.

My favorites, btw: brandied cherries, amaretto apricot jam, pickled green beans, Mariquita tomato sauce and strawberry-balsamic-pepper jam.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Little Things

This morning my 7-year-old woke up asking for scrambled eggs and bagel with jam for breakfast. After realizing my protests about it being a school day were silly, I rushed through my shower and set about scrambling. Scrambled eggs. A very basic thing, right? All the same?

Well, as some of you know, the 7-year-old is notoriously picky. Halfway through her eggs she said, "Mama, your eggs are much better than at Daddy's." The reason: Soul Food Farms CSA eggs. The opportunity to talk to your child about the difference between their eggs and supermarket eggs: a great way to start the day.

For the record, the bagel was not homemade, we've been baking all cookies all the time recently. But the jam, homemade from berries from Mariquita.

Things I'm looking forward to this weekend:
dinner canceled Saturday. Stomach still iffy. Sad.
and Makin Bacon on Sunday:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bonny Doon Cigare Volant 2004

This is a comfort wine for me. I learned to drink wine with Bonny Doon wines. In college, I dated a fellow student who was a wine fan. We found a wine shop in Baltimore that was friendly to young people. I think that they were charmed that a couple in their early 20s (just a slight exaggeration) were buying wine and not kegs or cheap vodka. Our budget was fairly limited, but we were happy to explore whatever the salesman suggested. I still remember the stress of spending $50, a fortune on a student's budget for a birthday bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape. But it was Bonny Doon with its lower price point and fun blends that we returned to again and again.

When we eventually moved to California, it was the first winery we visited. When we got married, we served a Bonny Doon wine at our wedding. (I suppose I should follow that with a Bonny Doon wine being the first wine I had post-divorce, but I think it was a french rose. ) It is true though that I was delighted when I heard that I would be working on Randall Grahm's book, Been Doon So Long. Here's a link to our book page:
and a link to the site that Bonny Doon has done for the book:

Anyway, Cigare Volant has always been a favorite. It probably led to my love of rhone grapes. The 2004 is lovely right now. The blend is 38% grenache, 35% syrah, 12% mourvedre, 8% carignane and 7% cinsault, with 13.5% alcohol. It would pair beautifully with food, but I must admit I am drinking a glass while blogging.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Had far too much fun at the JJ Buckley Bordeaux tasting tonight at La Folie. Had a chance to taste some affordable Bordeaux and meet some great people. How many I wonder not only blasted country music all the way home (thanks Max) and stopped at Bob's for a fritter?

Like I always do, I have scrawled kind of illegible tasting notes. In the bargain category one could buy lots of the 2008 Festival Rose. At $7.99 it is the kind of rose that would appeal both to casual drinkers and to wine loving friends. I think it would be perfect for holiday parties. In the sweet world I loved both the 2006 Fougeres La Folie Graves and the 2007 Chateau Le Fleur Des Pine Bordeaux Blanc, also a deal at $13.99. My favorite of the night? 2006 Chateau Bourgneuf Pomerol. A bargain at $29.99. In general, I enjoyed quite a few of the wines. I've always been more of a Rhone or Burgundy girl so it was great to have the chance to taste some Bordeaux I could actually acquire. Also great prep work for the Fine Wines Bordeaux book coming next fall.

I'll have more to report later, but for now, a fritter awaits me. And, the sliders at La Folie were really all that.