Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Korbel’s special Inaugural-labeled edition of their Russian River Valley California Champagne, gracing Inaugural Luncheon tables for the 8th time, is raising the ire of the Champagne lobby who insist “Champagne only comes from Champagne, France” in this article from Wine Spectator. Do you agree? Or do you think the French should kick back with a glass of whichever sparkling beverage they like, preferably with a chill pill chaser?

Here’s a link to the 2013 Inaugural Luncheon Menu if you care to whip up some steamed lobster with New England Clam Chowder Sauce, pop open a bottle of Korbel and celebrate Beyoncé style!

Congratulations Mr. President and Korbel for representing Sonoma with style!

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The Sonomaist makes no bones about being a lover of fine food and wine. I’m certainly not above spending a little extra for the farmer’s market oyster mushrooms or the organic kale every now and again. But reading the latest issue of Bon Appétit, this morning I nearly choked on my Trader Joe’s Brazillian Peaberry (Great coffee, $6.99 a can!)

It was an article about making your own vinegar at home. A noble pursuit to be sure, but not when you’re using an AMAZING Merry Edwards pinot noir to do it…Not once but twice!!!  I quote —

“We got started when a friend gave each of us a piece of “mother,” which resembles the Absent-Minded Professor’s flubber, a blob floating in jars with a little wine and water. It’s this mother, the live starter, that transforms wine into vinegar (acetic acid) through alcoholic fermentation and bacterial activity, with an assist from good old oxygen.

We swapped out the canning jars for gallon crocks draped with cheesecloth, which allows air in but blocks out light. Then, with a flourish, we poured a bottle of 2007 Meredith Estate Pinot Noir into each. The more delicious and aromatic the wine, the finer the vinegar, so whatever we’re drinking, we share a glass with our fermenting vinegar.”

This is a $64 (average) bottle of incredible wine.  Am I wrong to hate B.A. more than a little right now? Are you with me? Or maybe we should all go back to lighting our Cohibas with 100 dollar bills…

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It almost sounds like a set up for a bad joke, “What happens when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a segregationist governor walk into a bar?” But it’s actually a great story, and I’ve included a link for your to enjoy it yourself this holiday, recounted in Doc Lawrence’s “pull up a log and set a spell” natural storyteller’s voice.

From: “A WINE TASTING FOR THE AGES: DR. KING AND FINE WINE: A HISTORIC MEETING”  by Veteran Atlanta journalist and broadcaster DOC LAWRENCE and his wonderful Sips Across America column and blog.


“On a rainy night in Atlanta, four men met somewhat accidentally in a wine store with a rear lounge. One was the great Civil Rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Another was the segregationist governor of Georgia. They were joined by the Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper editor Ralph McGill and the store owner, Jim Sanders, the foremost wine importer in the South at that time. Sanders, a gifted writer, recorded the events of that evening, typing everything on his ancient Underwood typewriter.”

As he approached death in 1999, Sanders told me the story and entrusted me with his manuscript. I promised to share it with the world and to this day believe it to be one of the most fascinating tales involving wine and its potential for peacemaking.

I read Sanders’ transcript of that historic evening on my Atlanta radio show and proudly share it as Jim Sanders intended. I hope you join in sharing this with others.

There are many things to love about this odd evening of wine and conversation, and how, in a small, intimate moment over fine wine (a rosé, a sauternes sampling and a 1957 La Tache –Now selling for $3000-4000 a bottle, if you’re having a REALLY festive MLK day) these four men from very different perspectives and walks of life were able to civilly converse, and put aside their differences if only for a moment. One of Dr. King’s gifts to this country is, he helped get us to a place where the conversation lasted a lot longer and the civility took root in our hearts not just on the surface. In the spirit of a life well-lived and a philosophy of which we are the lucky recipients, here’s some ideas for wine and food pairings you can try for Martin Luther King Day.

If you’re feeling expansive (and fully recovered from Christmas and New Year’s excess) by all means, follow Dr. King to the mountaintop of deliciousness and indulge in a Southern feast fit for a King (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

This is a great post from RJ Reeves Jr. in Scrumptious Chef “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Favorite Foods: Celebrating The Great Man On His Birthday.”

However, The Sonomaist is endeavoring mightily to keep up her New Year’s Resolution of simpler and lighter, so y’all will have to let me know how those southern fried delicacies worked out! As an alternative to RJ’s righteous blowout, here’s an easy, light Southern Butter Bean Soup Recipe from Elizabeth Kelly that is both a tribute to Dr. King, and, bonus, a great pair with an “unassuming and flavorful little rosé”  of the type that was on the menu at Jim Sander’s wine shop that fateful evening. Since the name of that particular wine has been lost to history (and let’s face it, do you really want a 50 year old rosé? Didn’t think so.) Here are three choices from blowout to bargain —

2010 MacPhail Pinot Noir Rosé ($20) Crisp with a funky, barnyard-y strawberry nose. Nice barnyard finish that pairs well with the earthiness of the butter beans. (87 pts.) * Link is to the 2011 vintage.

N.V. Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé ($33) OR the 2007 Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé  ($42) Both are toasty bright strawberry inflected sparklers, but the 2007 vintage has a bit more gravitas than the more straightforward but perfectly enjoyable non-vintage offering which tends more towards the berry and less towards the rose petal and smoke of the 2007. Let’s put it this way, the N.V. is brunch and the 2007 is dinner. (N.V. 86 pts./2007Vintage 89 pts.)

2009 Inman Family Brut Rosé Nature Sparkling “Endless Crush” ($68) If you really want to blow it out big (It is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, after all) you can’t go wrong with this incredible 100%  Russian River Valley Pinot Noir stunner. Bone dry but with beautiful mineral, yeast and raspberry notes, followed by a bracing key lime acidity on the back. This is a gorgeous wine to cellar for a few years, or, break out this MLK day, even better! (94 pts.)

It is well-documented that Dr. King’s absolute favorite food was pecan pie, a difficult food to pair with wine to be certain, but I think it’s interesting that Mr. Saunder’s recounts in his memoir that Dr. King came to the wine shop searching for Sherry and ended up sampling three Sauternes, both a bit off the beaten track, but great matches for, you guessed it, pecan pie! Here’s a great post from Wine Peeps with some fantastic pairings (Sherry and Sauternes, natch) for that most quintessentially Georgian desert.

I find that legendary historical characters are far more interesting when we can look at them as ordinary people who did extraordinary things (doesn’t that make them even more extraordinary? If they don’t have capes and still perform amazing feats of strength?) That’s what I love about Saunders’ tale, it was a small intimate moment in a larger-than-life man’s existence. I like to picture Dr. King checking his watch and hurrying home after this strange evening at Sanders’ wine shop and recounting to Coretta the crazy night he had, perhaps over a nice glass of Sherry and a generous slice of  homemade pecan pie. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day everyone!

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In keeping with my New Year’s resolution I’m going to endeavor to make more easy healthy dishes and pair them with weeknight wines that won’t break the bank. Since I’m an avid cook, but certainly no recipe writer, I get by with a little help from my fellow bloggers. One of my absolute favorite blogs is Homemade With Mess. What better way to recover from holiday excess than with her light and easy take on a creamy Indian curry, Healthy Chicken & Butternut Squash Korma

The korma was easy to prepare and lightened up considerably with yogurt replacing cream and butternut squash in the place of some of the meat.


The wine I chose to pair was a Trader Joe’s 2010 Cosmia Sonoma County Chardonnay ($5.99) It opened with a bright lime zest nose leading to a light body and tropical fruit flavor more akin to a warm climate Sauvignon Blanc than a typical “large and in charge” California Chardonnay. Pineapple, green mango and a bracing acidic green apple back. This was simple, easy to drink and would pair nicely with even spicier Asian foods (the curry was quite mild.) The tropical notes of the wine married well with the sweetness of the butternut squash, while the generous acidity was a good counterpoint to the creamy sauce and almonds.

The Trader Joe’s write up describes it as “oaky and buttery” but I didn’t get a lot of that on the bottle I tasted. I will admit though, that there can sometimes be larger variations between TJ bottlings than those of more mainstream wineries. This was a decent (82  pts.) wine  at a great price point! And the Korma was fantastic!

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IMG_2213The time-space continuum was definitely a wee bit out of wack that afternoon. One minute we were in downtown Healdsburg, the next, a Tuscan olive grove. Strange, yes, but not in the least bit unpleasant. We decided to explore.

DaVero is a beautiful olive ranch and biodynamic farm in the Dry Creek Valley. Not only do they produce amazing oil, but the rich, buttery green Manzanilla olives haunt me to this day. They also farm herbs and Meyer lemons (some of which make their way into a lovely Dry Creek Vally Estate Meyer Lemon Olive Oil that is phenomenal on fish, and even more of a revelation on simple steamed veggies. In fact, their regular Extra Virgin Olive Oil on steamed veggies takes the edge off the “greenness” making a steamed vegetable side more compatible with dry white wine, which can be challenging!)


They also do a range of estate wines, mostly Italian varietals as well as Cabernet Sauvignon. For the most part (some exceptions) these are mid-priced ($22-$30) wines easy drinking, nothing too complex. The revelation, however, hailed from Portugal, the 2011 Tinta Cao ($28) with a Zinfandel nose but a Chianti palate. Tinta Cao is made from the same grapes that are used for Port, but isn’t at all heavy or Port-y, it’s more port as a young lass, all red cherry life saver sass and a kicky black pepper back. And at a relatively tame %11.7 alcohol, it’s perfect for a weeknight red sauce pasta dinner.


Wandering out onto the patio with a glass of the DaVero Estate Sangiovese ($45) taking a snoot-full of the rich petrol nose followed by rich black raspberry and tar and a long, acidic, cayenne pepper finish, my thoughts turned to food. Hearty, Italian food. At that moment, another apparition appeared. A wood burning oven, rich, yeasty dough. The Rosso Pizza truck was there! Marone! I will get into a more detailed ode to Rosso in the coming days, but for now, just know there was much weeping, long stretches of blissed out chewing, and maybe, just maybe a little smooching of the biodynamic ground that made this perfect Tuscan afternoon in NorCal possible.


The rustic tasting room is a lovely spot to try both the wines and the oils (and those incredible olives, if you’re lucky!)  So, if you should find yourself stepping through that tear in the fabric of space and time and wandering into Chianti, or even on the Westside Road, DeVero is definitely worth a stop.

DaVero Tasting Room
766 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Open 10-5 daily

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With a nice Sauternes perhaps?

This is a fantastic blog A Would-Be Sommelier in Afghanistan written by John, Rotruck. In his words:

“Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) are a ubiquitous part of military life, particularly during training. Containing on average a mere 1,250 calories each, these packages of delight are used by the US armed forces at home and abroad, and have been distributed to civilians as part of disaster relief efforts. Likewise, the civilian populace sometimes purchases them for use in outdoor recreation or emergencies for the same reason they are so popular with the military—the MREs have a shelf life measured in years without the need for refrigeration. Just add potable water and voilà—a meal fit for deposed royalty!

Even though the consumption of alcohol during training for and deployment to Afghanistan is prohibited, I could only imagine the vinous bounty that might be available to others in faraway places as they consume their hearty MREs. In order to help them make the most of their dining experience, my blog will offer helpful suggestions for wine pairing with these packaged morsels. Each meal has both a complementary pairing designed to harmonize the overlapping flavor profiles of the food and wine, as well as a contrasting pairing where dissimilar characteristics of each are brought together to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Since there are many out there who predominantly prefer either white or red wines with their meals, I have attempted to suggest one of each in most cases. Each pairing will propose a general type of wine from a particular region, and then offer a specific producer and wine for the detail-oriented amongst us. I have avoided including specific vintage years in order to give the recommendations in this blog the same shelf-life as the MREs themselves—years upon years.”

I couldn’t resist posting his suggestion for  an unusual, but spot on, combination, pairing spaghetti and meat sauce with a beloved Sonoma white.  Even if you’re not unlucky enough to be dining on an MRE, I love this idea for any spaghetti and meat sauce meal. I love John’s blog even more! He’s promising MRE’s paired with savory cocktails for the new year, so stay tuned!

And please, remember our armed forces this season. Even if you don’t have a loved one  in the service, you can still send along holiday cheer. Anysoldier.com is a great site where you can adopt a soldier, airman, marine, sailor, coast guard member, or even an entire unit and send much appreciated care packages from home. Unfortunately, no Ramey Chardonnay.

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Okay, so you’ve re-stuffed your maw at the Ferry Terminal Marketplace after reading the not-to-be-missed rundown in A HALF DAY IN SAN FRANCISCO PART TWO: THE FERRY TERMINAL BUILDING, and you’re wondering whether this “walking it off ” is all it’s cracked up to be. Never fear, you’ll continue in the direction you started. There’s plenty to see as you stroll The Embarcadero.


Restored colorful trolly cars from every era run the distance of the street. Great views of Coit Tower peek out from between high rises.IMG_2163

And you’re right on the water, so there are plenty of opportunities to step closer and take in The Bay as well as all kinds of colorful local characters. Yeah, there’s lots of tourists, but the locals make themselves known.IMG_2152

You will continue about 1.8 miles. If you’re not feeling it, you can drive, there is a “one hour free” parking lot before 6pm when you hit Pier 39 (your penultimate destination.) But, if those dumplings (and macaroons, admit it, you found room) are weighing heavy, take the stroll, it’s lovely.IMG_2165

You’ll know you’re getting close to Pier 39 when everything gets a little more cotton candy-street musician-guy-hawking-boat-trips-to-Alcatraz-y. You’ll know you’re actually AT Pier 39 when you either see the large Pier 39 sign or find yourself passing a Tourista Hellscape (Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Shirtique, Krazy Kaps and multiple opportunities to indulge in fudge. I think you know what I’m laying down. Don’t say you weren’t warned.)

Pier 39 does have three things going for it. Amidst all the mass produced tourist trap tat.

• A rather sweet, dual level old fashioned carousel in the center that would be fun for kids or a nostalgic spin of your own.https://i1.wp.com/farm4.staticflickr.com/3657/3605929300_329dc9b96a_m.jpg

• Clean public restrooms on the second level (it’s been a while since that pot of chrysanthemum tea.)

• And, most important of all, the SEA LIONS!


But you won’t find these charmingly lazy louts of the sea among the teeming masses that inhabit Pier 39. The best way to get to them is to get back out on THE EMBARCADERO. Continue in the direction you were originally walking. Pass the entrance to Pier 39 and all that madness (Hard Rock Cafe, the Aquarium, etc.) Take a right and walk down the pier.  (If you get to where the Alcatraz tour boats are docked you’ve gone too far.)

Walk down the pier towards the water. It will smell like a zoo. There will be grunting and guttural moans. You will ignore your better instincts and everything your mother ever told you and continue towards these sounds.

At the end of the pier there will probably be a crowd gathered. They will be watching the sea lions. You should too. They are ridiculous and slovenly and very cute. Sometimes fights break out when someone gets on the wrong side of an alpha male. But even the fights are pretty funny. To see two half ton blubbery blobs “ark” at each other over territory isn’t exactly the blood sport of the Serengeti.


The end of the pier is also a great place to catch a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. If you’re headed here in the Summer months, you might want to check in with the sea lion webcam just to make sure they haven’t migrated to their summer shares in So Cal or Mexico, ya know, ’cause they’re glamorous like that.


Continuing back on The Embarcadero you will hit Fisherman’s Wharf. More touristy hoo hah, although Fisherman’s Wharf is heavier on the fine dining and lighter on the “Your name rendered on a grain of rice.”

Alioto’s Restaurant is a San Francisco institution since 1925. Good seafood, great views of the San Francisco Bay.

• Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Manufactory offers you a glance into the chocolate making process and of course, has plenty of the deep, dark for sale.

And, last but not least, The Mister’s favorite…


Boudin Bakery – The place of his youthful sourdough dreams. Yes, you can take a tour, yes, there’s a bistro and a gift shop full of logo aprons and Pete’s Coffee. But if you’re like my fella, ignore all the pomp and go straight for a fresh out of the oven loaf of that deep, sour, crunchewy fantasy bread. It’s worth the hike. And you can walk that off getting to your car…Two miles back to Yank Sing!

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With so many amazing places to eat in Santa Rosa alone, not to mention neighboring towns, is there any reason you’d find yourself in Guy Fieri’s latest crime against food, Tex Wasabi’s? Zombie apocalypse doesn’t count.

The grim details were featured in Gawker.

Guy Fieri’s Most Disgusting Food Is Not Even At His Times Square Restaurant.

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IMG_2616On a recent visit to Petaluma I picked up some Marin French Cheese. I couldn’t resist I’d never heard of “Breakfast Cheese” and who am I to question the authority of a cheese that has been around since the Lincoln Administration? I had to have it for breakfast, right? Right???


A bloomy rind and brie-like texture with a tangy bite, it was lighter in mouthfeel and flavor than your average brie. I guess that’s why it’s a breakfast cheese, even The Sonomaist has to pace herself!

Feeling rainy day adventurous I whipped up a recipe I’ve been eyeballing, from Danielle’s wine country kitchen blog, Sonomagirl. A one day sourdough for when Acme Bakery is just too far away.


Sonoma Girl’s fabulous one day (direct dough method) sourdough recipe.

It definitely wasn’t a classic “crunchewy” sourdough, in the estimation of The Mister. But it was dense and delicious. The whole wheat flour made it eat like a meal. Very nice with butter, but off the chain with the Breakfast Cheese, a side of seedless red grapes and some citrusy 2006 Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs sparkling (89 pts.)

What are some of your favorite wine and/or cheese breakfasts? I’d love to know (any excuse, right?) As far as The Sonomaist is concerned, it’s okay to drink before noon as long as you call it ‘brunch.’ And you can quote me on that.

Thank you Marin Cheese and Sonoma Girl for upping my breakfast time game!

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So I trust you enjoyed your dim sum brunch at Yank Sing from A Half Day in San Francisco Part One? Of course you did. You’re welcome. Time to walk it off.

With your back to the SPEAR ST. entrance of Rincon Center walk half a block to your right to MISSION. Walk two blocks towards the water (can’t miss it.) The big street bisected by trolly car tracks is EMBARCADERO. Cross the street so you’re on the water side and take a left on EMBARCADERO heading away from the bridge.

In a couple blocks you’ll be at the Ferry Building Marketplace. Go inside. You’ll dig it. Trust me.

Inside is a treasure trove of local artisanal food, flowers, produce, skin and body products, cookware, you name it. If you’re still on your way to Sonoma, this is a great place to whet your appetite for what’s to come. If you’re like me, and you can never cram in enough food and fun in your always too short time up north, this is a great place to pick up culinary souvenirs from delicious Sonoma spots you might have missed on your way back.

• Cowgirl Creamery is a Northern California institution. They have been making amazing handcrafted organic cheeses since the 1990’s and have facilities in both Pt. Reyes in Marin County and Petaluma in southern Sonoma County. Both are open for tours when booked in advance. But, if you can’t make it, this is the perfect place to get a taste of their  pungent, decadent triple cream Red Hawk, their tangy, teeny Inverness and, one of my favorites, the Humboldt Fog, a partnership with Cypress Grove creamery, a truly unusual goat cheese that is tangy and crumbly at its center, but runny and almost brie-like around the edges under the bloomy rind. With a thin layer of signature ash shot through the center, it’s a cheese as dramatic as it is delicious.


Beekind is an emporium of honey and bee related products from around the world. Candles, cosmetics, soaps, and of course, plenty of the unfiltered sweet amber itself. There are quite a few Sonoma County honeys represented in their ever changing repertoire. They also have a location in Sebastapol (921 Gravenstein Highway South) a great stop when you’re up there.

Benedetta, founded in 1996 in Sonoma County specializes in botanical skin care utilizing farm sourced ingredients from California and around the globe. Recyclable packaging, no animal testing, no chemicals or toxins. But the most important thing to me, is that these products smell and feel like heaven!

Other personal favorites include —

Acme Bread Company, The Mister spent many childhood years in the Bay Area and has become a self-styled sourdough aficionado. His criteria is based on 1) heavy sourdough flavor and 2) “Crunchewiness” which I’ve come to understand as a crisp, well baked crust, bonus points for a hint of brick oven smokiness, and an elastic bounce back from a dense interior. A loaf of Acme’s had to be purchased if only to compare to his childhood gold standard down the road a spell, but I’ll save that for part three.

• I think top sweet honors go to the Black Jet Baking Company. Caramelized coconut macaroons? Apricot crumb hand pies? Besides the diabetic coma you’re about to slip into, what’s not to like?

If you haven’t stopped off for a second brunch, and believe me, the temptations are many, time to move on down the Embarcadero, remember Sonoma is on small town time, they roll up the sidewalks early, you don’t want to miss that first sip of pinot!

So on to large, grunting, foul tempered, lazy beasts…no, not him! As we move on to A Half Day in San Francisco Part Three: Pier 39 ghastly!

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