Chez Panisse is back and better than ever

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A very sad thing happened recently. Chez Panisse caught fire and had to shut down for several months while the restaurant was rebuilt. I was quite sad about this for a few reasons: First and most importantly, the restaurant’s cultural significance in the Bay Area fancy food scene. Secondly, I wanted to go for my birthday again this year. I had gone last year and it was amazing.

Several weeks ago, I caught wind that Chez Panisse was going to be reopening and they were taking reservations. Serendipitously, the first night they were to open for dinner was June 24th, my birthday. Meant to be? Absolutely. I called and called until I finally got through and made reservations for my birthday dinner.

I was excited to find out that Monday happens to be their local’s night. They tend to have a more rustic menu and it’s a little cheaper than their typical menu. Considering I just left my job, this was perfect for us. I looked up the menu on the website the day of our reservation and saw that they would be serving one of their signature dishes, the seafood bouillabaisse. Three courses were $65 per person and the wine pairings were an additional $30 per person.

We arrived right on time for our reservation and I got a few snaps of the new patio dining room from the outside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe inside of the restaurant didn’t look too different from the last time I was there. Considering I had only been inside once, it seems plausible that it has changed a bit and I simply didn’t notice. It was still a lovely copper hue with classy fixtures and comfortable seating. We were seated promptly and got to catch a glimpse of Alice Waters buzzing around the restaurant, greeting friends & customers and basically looking all business.

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The first course was a salad of haricots vert, roasted sweet peppers and frisée served with a crouton topped with fresh porcini mushrooms. The wine pairing was the highly sought-after Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé which has incredible roundness, richness and complexity for a rosé wine. The pairing was lovely.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second course was the classic Chez Panisse seafood bouillabaisse. The broth made with fennel, tomato and saffron was very rich and complimented the local white fish, shrimp & clams beautifully. The wine pairing for this was a 2007 Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol (80% Mourvédre & 20% Grenache). At first I was surprised that such a rich red wine was being paired with the fish stew, but upon inquiring about the pairing with the server he told me that it’s a classic. Sure! Sounds good to me, and it was actually very nice.

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The final course, dessert, was a lovely Santa Rosa Plum galette with wild fennel ice cream. It was definitely the highlight of the meal and it even came out with a cutesy birthday candle. I’ve had a lot of galettes in my life and this was definitely one of the best. It showcased the complex flavors of the Santa Rosa plum and the wild fennel was an incredibly harmonious compliment to the galette. The wine pairing for this course was a sweet muscat, but I didn’t catch the producer or vintage. What does it matter, anyway? I love sweet muscat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have to say I am glad I came back here for my birthday. It’s an institution and sets the benchmark for restaurants all over the Bay Area. I was so honored to be able to enjoy dinner on the opening night of the newly rebuilt Chez Panisse. If you have ever thought about going, I highly recommend it. The easiest way to get reservations is by calling a month to the day before the night you want to eat there at 9AM until you are able to get through. It’s worth the redialing, I promise!

New Wine Bar hits SF’s Union Square

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery now and then, I do a Yelp search for new wine bars in our beautiful San Francisco. I am always on the lookout for a new place that is the right mixture of casual and elegant with a great wine selection. At the end of the day, I expect a wine bar to be about the wine. If there was ever a city where the restaurants and bars get popular based on the quality of the food/drinks and service they provide, NOT gimmicks or trendiness, it’s San Francisco.

The last search I made yielded a new wine bar in San Francisco’s Union Square called Eno. I have to admit that my expectations were low at first – Union Square is a tourist trap, after all, and I could only assume this new wine bar was going to cater to a tourist’s palate. Regardless of location, I decided to pay it a visit and catch up with some of my lovely lady-friends in the process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I first arrived, my friend had already gotten there and she was on her laptop catching up on some work. A wine bar with Wi-Fi? HAVE I DIED AND GONE TO HEAVEN? Yes, it was true – Eno has free Wi-Fi for their customers to use. Not only is it free, but it’s decently fast. I could easily see this becoming a frequent spot for me to come to and catch up on my Winelandia correspondence while waiting for my husband to get off work, who works just 2 blocks away.

The big surprise was next. I opened the wine list and was very impressed. Pinot Gris from a volcano in Hungary, a slightly oxidative Chenin Blanc petillant-naturel from Montlouis-sur-Loire, a red wine made in our neighboring Berkeley by Broc Cellars, Chardonnay from Green Valley. Not only did they have an impressive bottle list, but they served a ton of wines by the glass and even have a tongue-in-cheek list of reasonably priced flights to choose from. You can get your bubble fix with the “Sekts, Bubbs & Rock ‘n Roll” (3 wines for $17), take a tour of Italy with “This Boot was Made for Drinking” (3 wines, also $17), or an impressive selection of mineral wines called “Kick Ash Whites” (3 wines, also $17). Great wines? Check. Lack of pretense and a sense of humor? Double-check.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn to the food! What good is wine without some delicious snacks to nom upon while you are drinking your selection of 3 different wines, using their free Wi-Fi to get some work done and also chatting with your hilarious lady-friends? The first thing I noticed upon walking in to Eno was their huge case containing whole wheels of cheese (another indication I might be in heaven?). Next to the cheese locker was a case of fancy-looking chocolates of all shapes and colors. They also had an inventive and interesting menu featuring seasonal foods at reasonable price points. I had the Grilled Peach & Buratta Salad with Black Pepper Vinaigrette for $11. It was lovely and inspired me to make one at home with some fresh nectarines from the farmer’s market. They also have a nice selection of cheese & charcuterie plates, sandwiches and bruschetta. You can view the full menu here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat more could you ask for if the place has great wines at a reasonable price-point, attentive service, delicious and creative food, free Wi-Fi and a very easy-to-get-to location? Well, the next thing on the list is ambiance and Eno has plenty of that. The decor is modern yet casual and slightly masculine while still being cozy. There were wood-paneled walls, cute bistro tables, and comfy chairs in the back next to a fireplace. Yes, you heard me. Eno also has a fireplace and right in front of it are two comfy seats. This is not only an excellent Get Work Done and Drink Wine spot, but also a superb Date Spot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI highly recommend you check out this great little wine bar before it gets popular and you can still catch that fireplace seat during our fair city’s most popular hour, Happy Hour. While this may be the best seat in the house, there is also an ample amount of window seating where you can watch tourists, business-folk and transients alike try to make their way down Geary Street. Eno may be my new favorite spot, I’ve already been there three times in less than a month. Maybe you’ll see me at a window seat, quietly banging away on my laptop while enjoying a flight of delicious and obscure wines that are hard to pronounce. Just make sure you say Hi!

How To Store Fresh Herbs

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One of the greatest boons to my cooking skills was the discovery of fresh herbs. Thyme, tarragon, sage, rosemary, chives, oregano, cilantro and parsley just to name a few. They pack so much flavor, add a lovely green kick to any dish you are making and can elevate a meal from average to ethereal. The problem with them is that they are hard to keep fresh… if you don’t know the secrets. If you throw a bunch of fresh tarragon in the fridge, wrapped in a damp paper towel like many people will suggest, it will turn into a bruised, blackened, slimy mess in just a day or two. The tarragon in the photo above is nearly a week old and it never saw a day of refrigeration. In this post I will share with you some tips and tricks to keep your herbs fresher for longer, which will save you money and thyme.

In my experience, every herb prefers to be stored in a slightly different way. Below I will name some common herbs and how I choose to store them.

Parsley: This very common but often overlooked herb is one of Ina Garten’s favorites. Most people don’t know that it not only lends a beautiful visual element to a dish, but it also packs a ton of flavor when it’s fresh. It’s the primary ingredient in Argentinian chimichuri sauce and is even used to flavor soup stocks, beans and other brothy things.
To store fresh parsley, cut a few millimeters of the ends off under running water like you would a bunch of fresh flowers and then put into a glass with water that goes an inch or two up the stems (but not any higher because it will start to rot). Keep this bouquet of parsley on your kitchen counter, away from direct sun, for up to a week. Trim the stems again a few days later, change the water & clean the glass every other day and it will stay fresher longer.

Thyme: This herb’s aroma reminds me so much of Thanksgiving. Hard winter squash, mushrooms, game birds, pork roasts, chicken stock and stuffing all benefit from a hearty helping of thyme. The greatest thing about thyme is that it can stand up to extended periods of cooking without damaging the flavor. You can add it directly to a dish cooking on the stovetop, use it in your braising liquids, or even deep-fry it for a lovely, flavorful, crunchy garnish.
To store fresh thyme, put it in a small glass of water filled to just above the bottom of the stems. I find that trimming thyme ends doesn’t do much for it, but it can’t hurt. You can store this either on the counter or in the fridge. It should keep for a little less than a week before it starts to dry out naturally. You should also change the water and clean the glass every other day to prevent bacteria from growing. Once it starts to go, take it out of the glass, cut off any parts that are turning bad, and lay it flat or hang to dry. Thyme keeps much of it’s flavor once it’s dry. The best way to store thyme, though, is by growing it in a pot. Grow it in partial sun, water it occasionally and take cuttings often to promote new growth.

Tarragon: This herb is one of the most delicious and hardest to find fresh. I have walked through many high-end farmer’s markets only to find that nobody has any. I do occasionally find some, usually when things like fresh fish are in season, which tarragon is a lovely compliment to. It has a unique almost anise-like aroma, but I like it much more than anise. It pairs well with many flavors such as lemon, asparagus, fennel bulb, tomatoes, beets, eggs, carrots and grapefruit. It also pairs terribly with some flavors, such as basil, oregano, sage and rosemary. Needless to say, it’s an herb best used by itself without any other herbs.
To store fresh tarragon, treat it just as you would parsley. Trim the ends under running water and keep in a glass with a little water which should be changed regularly. You will find that your tarragon will continue to grow in the glass of water, getting bigger and bushier before it finally bites the dust. Another great way to store tarragon that’s on it’s way out is by chopping it and mixing it with some soft butter, then freezing it. You can use this butter in various dishes and sauces throughout the year.

Cilantro: Also known as Coriander, this is one of the most polarizing herbs. Most love it, quite a few hate it. I’ve heard that genetics have a lot to do with cilantro intolerance but I am lucky to not have any issues with it. I LOVE cilantro. I add it to anything I cook that is Mexican or Thai inspired. It has such an interesting depth of flavor and is best used fresh, not cooked. Roughly chop the leaves (you can eat the stems, too, unlike it’s cousin parsley) and add it at the last minute to your dishes.
To store fresh cilantro, trim the ends of a fresh bunch and put in a glass of water much like you do with parsley and tarragon. Keep your cilantro in the fridge and it should last for several weeks this way. Change out the water occasionally  although you don’t need to do it as often as the refrigeration seems to thwart bacterial growth in the water. You will find, however, that it loses some of it’s punch over time so it’s best to use it up quickly even if it still looks nice.

Chives: Chives are extremely versatile and delicious, much like it’s cousin the Onion. They are fresh, pungent and lovely when thinly sliced and scattered over a dish. They are more delicate than a regular onion and are best used fresh, not added to a dish and then cooked. I like to mix them with softened butter and serve a little scoop over a nice filet mignon. If you’ve never had chive butter on a steak, you should get on that.
To store fresh chives, wrap them in a small plastic sandwich bag and keep in your refrigerator. You can chop as much as you need off the end of the whole bunch, then put it back into the bag and return to the refrigerator. They should keep a week or longer this way.

Basil: There is no greater indication that summer is in full swing than fresh basil at the market. This classic Italian (or Thai) herb has a powerful, pleasing aroma that is an excellent compliment to many other flavors. The classic pairing is with tomatoes, although you can use it in a zillion other ways. It’s also great with fish, mozzarella, eggs and zucchini. Basil is notoriously hard to grow, for me at least. It turns black within 2 days of being outside and I can only assume we don’t have the right climate for it here. Basil should be added fresh to dishes at the end of cooking, or used in cold dishes and salads with a healthy pour of olive oil and vinegar.
To store fresh basil, keep it in a glass on the counter like you would with parsley or tarragon. Do not put it in the refrigerator as it is sensitive to cold temperatures (maybe that’s why I can’t grow it). If you can find fresh basil with the roots still attached, it’s even better and will keep for up to 2 weeks on your counter top if you change the water regularly.

Rosemary: This woody, weedy, showy herb has a lovely, strong and unique flavor due to it’s high oil content. It’s best used during cooking and I can’t imagine using it fresh outside of a cocktail flavoring in full sprig format. It pairs well with all sorts of flavors, such as blackberry, other italian herbs, duck, garlic, pork, potatoes, beans, carrots, eggplant and lamb.
To store fresh rosemary, trim the ends and put in a glass of water like cilantro and store in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can store it in a plastic bag as this herb is pretty hearty and won’t bruise or rot too easily. My favorite way to store rosemary, however, is in a pot of dirt, growing in my back yard. It’s very easy to grow and can quickly get out of control, so be sure to cut it back and use it often.

These storage methods are purely based on my own experience, so please feel free to chime in below in the comments and let us know if you have any tips or additions of your own.

Seasonal Foods: Sour Cherries

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This past Saturday – with Tala’s help – we did something crazy. We pitted 20 pounds of sour cherries. What? These don’t look like the cherries you find in the grocery store, or even the farmers market? It’s true. These cherries are a different variety, and a different animal altogether. Sour cherries are extremely rare and hard to come by out here on the west coast, but if you’re from the midwest, or even the northeast, you may have had a tree in your yard or neighborhood growing up. Most likely, although we’re not 100% certain, our cherries were Montmorency Cherries – a variety widely available in Europe and scattered throughout the US. They need frost to thrive, you see, and that’s one of the only times I can think of that our amazing Bay Area weather prohibits us from access to a particular produce item. You can’t have everything, I guess.

Anyway, sour cherries are THE pie cherry. Their tart acidity and depth of cherry flavor is what really makes the cherry pie you’re used to what it is. And getting them, pitting them, and making it yourself produces THE BEST cherry pie filling. Trust me. These cherries are also what should be used to make maraschino cherries – or brandied, bourbon, or any other liquor-infused cherry you prefer. I think Tala plans to put some up this way this year, while I’ll be making her a Slab Pie for her birthday with mine. (More about that later.) Just don’t pop one in your mouth expecting to love it – even if you promise me you love sour things! These cherries will make you pucker, though I do recommend trying one just so you understand their raw flavor.

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Miraculously, pitting all 20 lbs only took about 2 hours worth of work, but we did make an assembly line system out of it, which helped. My utensil of choice is a paperclip, but a bobby pin will work as well. You can’t use a pitter on these cherries, because it’ll destroy their delicate, juicy interiors. The pit isn’t as attached to the flesh in these cherries as it is in sweet cherries, it more, well, floats around inside and just needs to be scooped out. You pluck the stem off the top, poke the end of an unfolded paperclip into the stem end, and scoop out the pit. Pretty simple! So what are we going to do with 10 lbs each? Too – late – we already froze them! In that first photo, you can see them in their luminescent glory, all spread out on sheet pans and waiting to be popped into the freezer. Once they’re solid, you can store them in canning jars or ziploc bags. They’ll keep for about a year this way – and it maintains their pure flavor and color very effectively.

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Now that we’ve inspired you, we hope you can find these lovely orbs for yourself! Maybe you can make a pie or turnovers? Some true maraschino cherries for your old fashioneds? These cherries are only available for a few weeks in June, and most certainly the farmers markets are already sold out. You might have some luck at Whole Foods or Berkeley Bowl, or maybe BiRite will have them. Just for reference, you’ll need around 2 or 3 pounds to make anything like a pie or other pastry, so scoop them up if you see them. A handful won’t do it.

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And because this is a wine blog, after all, let’s talk about the wine that accompanied our pitting extravaganza. The 2011 Robert Sinskey Muscat à Petits Grains tastes like flowers in your mouth. It’s fresh, delicate, and crisp. A wonderful and versatile complement to our indoor-picnic lunch of fresh chevre, castelvetrano olives (our fave!), oven roasted tomatoes from last year’s crop, smoked oysters, and Oakland’s own Firebrand Bakery bread. Tala and I both loved it – though she preferred the 2010. This wine is made in very small quantities, so ask for it very nicely if you’re ever at the Sinskey tasting room, and they might sell you a bottle. No promises.

Recipe: Easy Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes

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It’s officially the middle of June. Spring sprung a while ago and now the days are getting longer and warmer. One of the most lovely seasonal ingredients you can find around here this time of year is fresh blueberries. They are delicious! Tart, flavorful, juicy and bite-sized. Blueberries are extremely versatile; you can add them to your oatmeal or pancakes, enjoy them with fresh ricotta cheese or hide them inside of cornmeal muffins for a delectable surprise. To top it all off, they are my favorite color – blue!

I get my blueberries from a family farm at the Alemany Farmer’s Market called Hooverville Orchards. This vendor is only at the market for the summer, fall & winter seasons. They grow apples, pears, citrus, peaches, sweet cherries, sour cherries, blueberries and various other fruits. You can find them at the Alemany market from early June through February. Because they grow sour cherries, I find myself coming here starting in late May, hoping to find them on their first weekend back at the market to ask when their sour cherries will be in (more on that later).

For now, we have settled for blueberries. Since Father’s Day is upon us, I thought it would be nice to cover a pancake recipe. Dads love pancakes, it’s a well-known fact. My own father used to make pancakes for us every Saturday morning while we watched the Smurfs. He wasn’t much of a cook so he used Bisquick instead of making them from scratch. I always assumed that since my father never made them from scratch then they must just be too complicated to make without a mix. How wrong I was! Pancakes are very easy to make, you just have to use a light hand, butter and medium-low heat. Anybody could make these, even kids.

Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes
(adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp. white vinegar
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 tbsp. butter, melted
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
Additional butter for cooking

Method:
In a medium bowl, add the vinegar to the milk and let stand for 5 minutes while it sours. Melt the 2 tbsp. butter on the stovetop or in the microwave. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg & melted butter into the soured milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until just barely incorporated – there should still be some small and medium lumps in the batter (this will ensure tender, fluffy pancakes!). Gently fold in the fresh blueberries.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Melt enough butter to just cover the bottom of the pan. Pour batter 1/4 cup at a time onto the skillet and cook until you start to see bubbles on the surface of the pancake and the edges begin to dry. Flip the pancake and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar & fresh blueberries for garnish, and serve with syrup of your choice.

Happy Father’s Day everyone!

Seasonal Foods: King Salmon

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In the Bay Area, there aren’t many things the locals take more seriously than baseball (Go Giants/A’s!). One of those few things is food. Case in point: Dungeness crab, Hog Island oysters, farmer’s markets, Berkeley Bowl/Rainbow/BiRite, Cioppino, countless “New American” restaurants featuring local ingredients, Mission burritos, food trucks, pop-up restaurants, dim sum, and brunch in general. Your average Bay Arean knows more about farming, fine dining, international cuisine and cooking than most Americans. Our airport has the finest food of any I’ve ever been to. Finally, some of the best meals are the cheapest, served from trucks on the street with a side of grilled green onions. What’s not to love?

Once a year, starting in late May, we start to see local King Salmon hitting the markets and restaurants. These delicious beasts spawn in the Sacramento river and are a delicacy in our Bay Area culture. In 2008 & 2009 there was no King Salmon season at all. In 2010, the season only lasted 4 days. Needless to say, this fish is expensive! Prices vary greatly by location. I’ve seen it for as much as $28/lb. at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and for as little as $19.99 at Sun Fat Seafood in the Mission.

King Salmon is aptly named. Also known as Chinook Salmon, it’s salmony in color, slightly sweet and has a lovely texture. This is one of the salmon species you can eat raw. The skin is the best part, absolutely wonderful when it’s pan-fried with sea salt until crispy. It’s excellent for curing, or prepared in the way I feel is best: Simply pan roasted in olive oil with salt, pepper and a slice of lemon.

We have a farmer’s market in my neighborhood on Thursdays afternoons, and our fresh fish vendor had King Salmon for $22 a lb. I bought a 3/4 lb piece, cut it into two, and pan-roasted it simply with salt & pepper. Served with matchstick carrots & ginger in a honey & olive oil glaze, topped with melted leeks, accompanied by a wedge of lemon and a side of brown rice.

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We enjoyed a bottle of Dutton-Goldfield 2012 Russian Rivery Valley Pinot Blanc alongside this lovely meal. It’s surprisingly rich on the palate for such a young and light-bodied wine. Pale straw in color, it has notes of stonefruit, mineral and citrus with a nice acid backbone and delightfully long finish. It was perfect with the fish and vegetables. Unfortunately this wine is no longer available for purchase, but it was $25/btl. retail when I bought it. Dutton-Goldfield has a wonderful wine club, you can opt out of any offering and the discount is 20%. They are definitely worth checking out if you are in Sebastopol; they make lovely Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc & Gewurtztraminer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll in all, I can’t complain that this was my dinner. I feel very fortunate to have these exceptional-quality ingredients at my fingertips. I love to cook seasonally, and while I love King Salmon, I probably won’t think about it much for the rest of the year because I will be distracted by other seasonal delights. Think of tomatoes, hard winter squash, chanterelle mushrooms, apples and garlic scapes.

Cocktail Recipe: Sazerac

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If you are a whiskey lover like me, you may have had the pleasure of enjoying a Sazerac at some point in your life. The Sazerac is an old-fashioned cocktail from pre-Civil War New Orleans; it’s a combination of Rye whiskey, Absinthe, water, bitters, sugar & lemon. This highly aromatic, spiritous cocktail is complex, balanced, slightly spicy and extremely delicious when prepared correctly. It’s very important to follow the recipe precisely – being sure to measure your ingredients – when making this drink. It can easily fall out of balance. I’ve had more bad Sazeracs than good ones when ordering them at a bar or restaurant.

There are several variations of this cocktail and you might see it made with Cognac instead of Rye, or with different kinds of bitters. Traditionally it’s made just with Peychaud’s bitters, but I like to add a little dash of Angostura bitters to provide another layer of complexity. One other important factor, I believe, is using the most minuscule amount of Absinthe as possible. The flavor and aroma of Absinthe is so strong that it can easily overpower the drink.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe leading principle behind this cocktail is not necessarily the ingredients, but how it’s prepared. Instead of a cocktail shaker, you use two chilled glasses equal in size; one for mixing the cocktail, the other for ‘rinsing’ with Absinthe and serving. The method is described in detail below. One thing I would like to point out is that instead of ‘rinsing’ the serving glass, I use a little perfume-type bottle filled with Absinthe to spray the inside of the glass with. A really wonderful bartender I met in Austin was kind enough to give me one when I marveled at his as he was making me a Sazerac. It’s pure genius.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASazerac
(adapted from chow.com)

Tools:
Two small, chilled glasses (I use scotch glasses)
Vegetable Peeler
Cocktail Strainer
Muddler (I use the blunt end of a chopstick)
Jigger

Ingredients:
(makes one cocktail)
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (I like Bulliet, it’s inexpensive and perfect for this drink)
Absinthe (I use St. George, duh)
2 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
1 Sugar Cube
Lemon Twist
Splash of Water

Method:
Chill both of your glasses, one filled with ice.
Drop the sugar cube into the chilled glass with no ice.
Add just enough water to moisten the sugar cube.
Add 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters & 1 dash Angostura bitters & muddle the sugar cube.
Measure and pour 1.5 oz. rye whiskey into the glass.
Add a few ice cubes to the glass and stir gently for 10 seconds.
Empty ice cubes from the second chilled glass.
Add the smallest amount of Absinthe, swirl around the glass, and dump the excess out (or use a spritzer like I did).
Strain the mixture from Glass #1 into the Absinthe-washed Glass #2.
Peel the zest of a lemon over the glass, twist the zest over the glass, and wipe around the rim.
Discard the lemon twist & enjoy your cocktail.

If you made it right, this cocktail should be lemony, anisey, oaky and spicy all at once. It’s truly a gentleman’s drink, or gentlelady’s drink in my case. Enjoy!

Urban Wineries: Treasure Island Wines

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Lately I’ve been spending time at a great little winery on Treasure Island called Treasure Island Wines. Co founded in 2006 by brothers Jim Mirowski and Paul Mirowski, it’s a collective of winemakers who share a facility and resources, producing a total of 8,000-9,000 cases of wine per year. The space itself is 10,000 square feet and is a former food processing plant from World War 2. Currently there are five producers under one roof, including Bravium, Heartfelt, Eristavi, Treasure Island Wines, and HDC. Their mission is to bring quality, artisinal, small-batch wine-making to San Francisco, and they are doing a great job.

jim

Paul Mirowski (above, right), is an attorney in San Diego with expertise in many areas including entertainment, business litigation and wine law. Jim Mirowski, (on the left, above) is a tech escapee – a former Network Security expert. He is affectionately referred to as The Captain by his cohorts; he handles all of the infrastructure issues at the facility. He was first exposed to wine after watching his family in Michigan make country wines from fruit, then traveling to Europe and falling in love with old world wines. He came to California to study at UC Berkeley and eventually decided to take some wine-making classes at UC Davis to teach him the science behind winemaking. Nowadays he is producing his own commercial wines in a terroir-driven, old world style. Jim particularly enjoys making bold reds from Zinfandel & Cabernet Sauvignon and fresh, elegant, feminine white wines from Rhone varieties such as Roussanne and Viognier. His wines are very traditional; he and the assistant winemaker Danny chuckled when I asked them what they thought of the latest “orange wine” rage, and Danny affectionately referred to it as “Hipster Wine”.

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The tasting room at Treasure Island Wines is focused on educating consumers and providing a fun, un-pretentious environment for people to come enjoy wine at without having to drive to wine country. Most of their customers are Bay Area locals, including visitors who have grown weary of the spectacle of Napa Valley and Sonoma. Generally the people pouring the wines are the ones who are making the wine, which is a rare sight in most big wineries. They are only open on the weekends, with a rotating wine tasting list which changes daily. You can find out whose wines will be featured by calling the winery or subscribing to them on Facebook.

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Treasure Island Wines is a great place to stop at if you are interested in tasting some great small-production wines and meeting some really interesting people who love to share their knowledge, or if you just feel like getting out of the city without having to actually leave the city. Treasure Island also has a Flea Market every last Saturday & Sunday of the month, which provides the perfect opportunity to stop in and check out the winery.

Treasure Island Wines is having an event on June 15 called the Cork’n’Pork – a BBQ and wine pairing party featuring Bravium and Heartfelt wines. I will be helping out at the event, so come by and check it out. You can buy tickets here. Hope to see you there!

Treasure Island Wines
995 9th Street
Bldg. 201
San Francisco, CA 94130
415-394-9463
Open Saturdays & Sundays from 1pm-5pm

Easy Meals: Nectarine & Burrata Watercress Salad

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of our favorite seasonal foods here in the Bay Area is stonefruit. Colleen loves it so much, she got peaches tattooed on her back. True story. I was at the Alemany Famer’s Market today to stalk the sour cherry vendor (2 more weeks…) and snagged a tasty-looking sample from a neighboring stall. All they had were yellow nectarines, which happen to be my favorite.

Holy moly! They were amazing. So sweet, juicy, tart and creamy – the perfect stonefruit. I picked up a big bag of them for $3/lb (organic, too) with no real intentions for them other than shoveling them into my face.

I left the Alemany market, took a detour for the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and found that Cowgirl Creamery is now selling mini 4oz. tubs of burrata. While I have no issue plowing through a full 16oz of this sweet, creamy, heavenly cheese, I decided it would be better for my heath and pocketbook if I bought the little tub. It’s the perfect amount for two people and it only cost me $5.

I remembered a cheesemonger once told me that the perfect accompaniment for burrata was stonefruit. I then recalled a salad I recently had at Eno Wine Bar in Union square with grilled peaches, peppery greens and burrata cheese. It was heavenly, although the peaches were under-ripe. I thought I would do the concept justice and make my own rendition at home with perfectly ripe fruit. I picked up a big bag of watercress from County Line Harvest and took my bounty home to Brisbane.

My husband and I enjoyed this lovely salad accompanied with a peppery champagne vinaigrette and a bottle of Wind Gap 2012 Trousseau Gris. Trousseay Gris was once widely planted across California, but these days there’s only about 10 acres of it left. It creates a wine that is delicate and fresh with aromas of honeysuckle, mineral & citrus. It’s so fresh and delicious, I thought it would be a lovely compliment to our summery salad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pair was a match made in heaven. You can pick up this wine for yourself for the super low price of $24. It’s hard to find a wine this delicious and well-made at this price point, so I suggest buying up as much of it as you can if you see it in a store.

The salad was very easy to make, the recipe is below.

Nectarine & Burrata Watercress Salad with Black Pepper Vinaigrette
(serves 2)

Ingredients:
1/3 lb. watercress, pepper-cress, spring mix, arugula, or whatever
1 tree-ripe yellow nectarine or peach
4 oz. burrata
Olive Oil
Champagne vinegar
Pinch of salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Put the greens into a large bowl.
  2. Pour equal parts champagne vinegar & olive oil (about 1 oz each) into a 4 oz canning jar with a lid or a small bowl.
  3. Add salt and pepper to the dressing.
  4.  Put a lid on the jar and shake the dressing, or whisk in the bowl.
  5.  Cut your nectarine or peach into pretty slices.
  6.  Cut your 4 oz. of Burrata into wedges.
  7.  Pour the dressing onto the greens and toss.
  8.  Plate equal parts of greens into two separate bowls.
  9.  Fan out your stonefruit slices and place them in the center of the salad.
  10.  Garnish the stonefruit slices with two wedges of burrata.
  11.  Drizzle the burrata with olive oil and give it another grind of black pepper

Enjoy your amazing salad and wash it down with copious amounts of California Trousseau Gris.