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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you love wine? Do you find it difficult to select good wines from the vast, overwhelming walls of plonk at your local market? Do you have trouble picking the perfect foods to pair with that delicious wine you bought? Do you drink 2 or more bottles of wine per month? We have a solution for you!

Sign up for Winelandia’s inaugural wine subscription, which will ship just in time for the holidays. We will pack and ship 6 bottles of awesome wine to your doorstep for no more than $25 a bottle. With your shipment we will include recipes, food pairing suggestions and tons of information about the wines you receive. Click the link below and join the waitlist – we have a few more slots available in our current allocation and will send you an email confirming your spot.

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We are looking forward to helping you impress your friends and elevate your wine-fu to a new level. Join today!

Secret Wine Club – The Loire Valley

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Last Saturday, Colleen and I hosted another Secret Wine Club with our awesome friends. The theme this time was the Loire Valley. We featured wines from all corners of this swath of land, which runs along the Loire River, just South-East of Paris. This region produces primarily Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne, and Cabernet Franc. The wines can be light and acidic with ample minerality or dark and brooding with weedy, earthy, red fruit undertones. I was on wine duty and Colleen was on food duty. We were quite excited to shop for the party.

Colleen and I like to do a mix of traditional and unconventional food pairings. We find that we are able to demonstrate “What grows together goes together” as well as “Look at everything you can do with California’s bounty” this way. Below you will find the wine list along with the foods we paired.

2010 Domaine de la Louvetrie Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lie
Melon de Bourgogne from Muscadet
Manila clams sautéed in white wine, shallots, and butter with parsley.

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2012 Thirot-Fournier Sancerre
Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre
Herbed mixed green salad

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Le Pepie rosé Loire Vin de Pays
Rosé of Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley
Sweet peppers stuffed with fresh goat cheese & herbs

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2012 Henry Marionnet Touraine
Gamay from Touraine
Sausage, watercress and gruyere flatbread

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2011 Tessier “Le Point du Jour” Cheverney Rouge
Gamay/Pinot Noir blend from Cheverney
Mushroom, onion & gruyere puff pastry tarts

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2011 Bernard Baudry “Les Grezeaux” Chinon
Cabernet Franc from Chinon
Bonne Bouche and Terra aged goat cheeses with Acme Bakery Herb Slab crostini

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2004 Jerome Lenoir Chinon
Cabernet Franc from Chinon
Home-made pork terrine with Acme Bakery Herb Slab crostini

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2009 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Petillant Naturel
Petillant-Naturel of Chenin Blanc from Vouvray
Apple cake with whipped creme fraiche

All of the pairings were an absolute hit. I especially loved the goat cheese & herb stuffed peppers with the rosé and also the clams and Muscadet, a classic pairing. The favorite wine of the evening was the Gamay from Touraine. The favorite snacks were the pork terrine (aka “Pork Butter”) and the puff pastry tarts with mushrooms, onions & cheese. I found it especially interesting to try a fresh Chinon next to one with some age. We also learned that Shelley does NOT like brett on her wine (“It smells like a corpse!”) and that sparkling Vouvray with a little age is quite delicious. Regardless, everything was great, and the best part of it all is that none of these wines cost more than $25 retail. They can be enjoyed any night of the week.

Do you have a favorite Loire Valley wine? Let us know in the comments.

Seasonal Foods: Pink Pearl Apple

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI will never forget the look of shock on my step-father’s face the first time he saw the flesh of a pink pearl apple I was eating while we were out on a hike. They are bizarre, for sure, these rosy-fleshed treats. What’s more surprising to me is not just the color, but the great flavor of the Pink Pearl apple. They are tart, sweet and crisp – the perfect fruit.

I never knew these existed until this year when I saw them on display at Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco. Surely they couldn’t taste as great as they looked, so I picked up a few to try out. I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious they were, and later came to find out that they are Colleen’s favorite apple (no surprise there, she loves weird things in nature).

According to Wikipedia, the Pink Pearl apple is a cultivar developed in 1944 by Albert Etter, a northern California breeder. It was the seedling of the “Surprise”, another red-fleshed apple. If you ever read or watched The Botany of Desire, you may remember Michael Pollan’s chapters on apples. He explains how the seedling produced from the seed of a tasty apple is never a genetic match and usually produces apples only suitable for making hooch. Apples are weird like that, so Mr. Etter must have been pretty stoked when his seedling started producing these amazing apples.

Most heirloom varieties of apples have been wiped out and replaced with commercial apples such as Fuji, Pink Lady, McIntosh, Red Delicious, and the likes. We are fortunate to have so many heirloom apple varieties here in California, and I take full advantage. The apple season is reaching full swing with the onset of Fall, so I highly recommend going to your local farmer’s market and picking up some of these beauties before they are gone.

Seasonal Foods: Sanddabs

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Do you love fish? I sure do, especially if it’s sustainably harvested. Here in the Bay Area, we have an abundance of local fish to choose from. Much of it is caught along the coast of Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Bay. Many of you may be familiar with Seafood Watch, a program run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium aimed at helping consumers make good choices when it comes to buying seafood. I like to use their iPhone app which helps me determine if the fish I’m about to buy is on the Best Choices or Good Alternatives list. You’d be surprised by some of the members of the Avoid list.

A few days ago, the SF Chronicle published an article on Pacific Sanddabs in their Food & Wine section. I had seen sandddabs many times before being sold by my local fishmonger. I never thought twice about them, but this article really piqued my interest. I decided to set forth on a mission to find San Francisco’s finest Sanddabs. I did eventually find them at none other than the 18th Street Bi-Rite Market for $10/lb. By Bay Area seafood standards, they are a steal. Move over King Salmon! While sanddabs are not on the Monterey Bay Aquarium “Recommended” list, they are on the “Good Alternatives” list and that’s good enough for me.

I wanted to make the preparation simple so I could highlight the delicate, nutty flavor of the fish. I ended up settling on lightly dredging them in flour and pan-frying them in neutral-tasting rice bran oil, then serving them with chive Beurre Blanc. I roasted up some carrots and cooked some French lentils to serve with them, staying on the French trajectory. The outcome was fabulous, and I’m now hooked on sanddabs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been squirreling away a bottle of Chablis that I wanted to open with some white fish, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I really do love Chardonnay, especially if it’s French. Chablis is one of the best values in Burgundy, and this bottle only set me back $29. I picked it up at Ruby Wine in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill and I sure am glad I saved it for such an occasion. The pairing was lovely, adding a nice crisp counter-point to the beurre blanc while not overwhelming any of the ingredients in the dish. 2010 was a cool vintage in Chablis and many of the wines made that year have a ton of racy acidity. This wine also had a prominent mineral backbone, a hallmark of Chablis, which was a great compliment to the briney character of the sanddabs. Chablis is a very versatile wine, but I love it most with seafood.

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Are you a sanddab fanatic? Do you fish them yourself, or prepare them in a special way? Let us know in the comments.

 

Seasonal Foods: Wild Blackberries

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAre you a West Coast native? If so, you may be familiar with the Himalayan Blackberry, a variety of blackberry that was brought to the US in 1885 for food production because of it’s large, sweet fruit. It quickly became an invasive species and spread all over the temperate US. I can remember from a very young age seeing creek beds, empty ditches, vacant lots, and hillsides absolutely covered in them. They are impartial to the city or countryside, growing vigorously all over the state of California. Their sweet canes are delicious to goats, and you may have seen herds of them munching hillsides covered in blackberry.

Every summer, it’s a Bay Area tradition to go wild blackberry foraging. We are, after all, descendants of gatherers, and I feel a very strong natural inclination to hunt for these guys for hours on end. Many of my friends behave like depression-era hoarders, and I never have trouble finding someone who wants to go blackberry picking with me. It’s an invasive species, so I never feel bad about taking as many as I want. In fact, the big patches in my neighborhood are mostly picked-over by the end of summer, but I know of a few patches that others don’t.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou don’t have to be Iso Rabins to forage your own blackberries. Chances are, you already know of a patch or fifty within a three mile radius of your home. If you live in a big city with no vegetation, just ask a friend. All you need is a basket, a glove (I use latex so I can still feel around but not get poked by thorns), sunscreen, long sleeves, sturdy shoes, and maybe a blanket to throw over the brambles in front of you so you can reach the untouched, fat, delicious berries farther back. (I learned that trick from a 10 year old girl I saw picking berries along Lucas Valley road in Marin). It’s always a good idea to taste some samples from your chosen patch first, as some patches taste better than others.

Another thing to keep in mind while foraging blackberries is to avoid patches along busy roads. The berries have all sorts of nooks & crannies along with really thin and delicate skin. They are essentially covered in road grime, exhaust particles and other nasty stuff that you don’t want to eat or feed to your family & friends. Try to find bushes off the beaten path, those are less likely to be picked over anyhow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce you get all of your delicious blackberries home, what will you do with them? I like to lay mine out in a single layer on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper and pop them into the freezer. This flash-freezes them, preserving their peak-of-summer sweetness and bracing acidity. After they freeze, I pack them into freezer-safe mason jars and use them all throughout the year when I’m feeling nostalgic for summer. They are great with peaches in desserts, cooked down into a syrup or made into a pie. Throw them into a bowl of oatmeal or put them into your Sunday morning pancakes. The options are really endless, use them as you would any other fruit and bask in the notion that you didn’t pay a dime for them.

If you are uncomfortable with scaling hillsides or put off by the idea of thorns, you can always visit Swanton Berry Farm on Highway 1 near Año Nuevo State Park. They have rows and rows of kid-friendly, delicious, thorn-less blackberries that you can pick yourself and pay for. They are a different variety than the wild blackberries, but they are just as if not more delicious. They also grow strawberries, ollalieberries and kiwi fruit.

How do you use your wild-foraged blackberries? Let us know in the comments!

The Joys of Picking Your Own Fruit

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For the last 5 years or so, I’ve made a pilgrimage of sorts. I’m not a religious person, and to imply that I might be seems almost laughable, but going down to Andy’s Orchard in Morgan Hill, CA is a sublime experience that satisfies me to a degree that surprises me every time I go. Andy Mariani is a fruit grower extraordinaire, with a beautiful orchard just over 20 miles south of San Jose. It’s a long drive for me, coming from Oakland, but it’s so worth it. Every year, Andy hosts a few tasting events – generally, one in June, one in July, and one in August, to offer the public an opportunity to sample the abundance of his orchard, and his hard work developing, preserving, and evangelizing rare, precious, and fragile stone fruit varieties. (Stone fruit is anything with a pit: cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, and so on.) The August tasting always has a wide array of the larger, later-season fruits – peaches, plums, nectarines, and hybrids. This year, I’m sure we tasted at least 25 or 30, and if we’d been intrepid enough, could’ve tasted through at least 25 more.

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After you walk down row after row of sliced, delicately flavored and complex fruit, you get the opportunity to trek through the orchard with a box or a bucket, picking however much of whatever fruit you’d like to take home. This is a test of discipline and will for me. I am, after all, the crazy girl who has a peach tattoo, and setting me loose in an all-you-can-pick orchard is a dangerous proposition. This year, I walked away with only 25 pounds of fruit that I split with A, who joined me. We picked 3 primary varieties – the  Kit Donnell and Baby Crawford peaches, and the Silk Road nectarine. Types you’ll surely never see in stores because they’re so delicious, but so delicate and fragile that they didn’t even make the trip from the  tree to my house unscathed, let alone from tree to distributor to store to display to cart to trunk to your kitchen shelf. They last so few days once home, that consumers would never tolerate it. But trust me – the flavor, texture, and joy is totally worth the experience.

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If you’ve never picked a tree-ripened summer fruit from a branch, noticing that the sun has warmed its – and your – skin, you’re truly missing out. I recommend this experience to everyone. Being able to pull a piece off a tree and bite into it to tell what it is, and whether you like it or not, is something unmatched by even going to the farmers market. This is as close as I can get to my food, and for me, it makes it taste all the better. A and I agreed that the Silk Road may be the best stone fruit we’ve ever eaten. I decided to turn it into sorbet to preserve the beautiful deep goldenrod color, and the creamy, dense texture.

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Oh, so what did I do with those 25 pounds of fruit? Y’all know I like pie, right? Like I’m kind of obsessed? It’s still delicious two days later, even. We also made some peach brandy (hopefully I can tell you about it when it’s done, but that might be a few months,) peach ice cream, the aforementioned nectarine sorbet, and ate many out of hand – the best way to enjoy them.

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This event was the last one at Andy’s Orchard for 2013, but if you’re jealous, you can order some of Andy’s fruit and have it delivered to you in a foam-cushioned box. So, have you ever visited a you-pick orchard? There are tons! What did you do with your treasure?

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Pastry Perfection, or; What I Did with All Those Sour Cherries

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Were you as crazy for pop tarts and toaster strudel as I was as a kid? I swear I ate them every day for years. Maybe that’s where my love of flaky, crispy pastry started – but I’m actually pretty sure it started with my grandmother making apple pie for me. Anyway, those little toaster pastries filled with jam-like fruit were the first thing that came to mind when I was assembling what came to be known as The World’s Largest Pop Tart for Tala’s birthday party last month.

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This pastry, a riff on Smitten Kitchen’s Sour Cherry Slab Pie, was, as Deb says, the perfect ratio of crust to filling. Tons of crust, some filling – pastry perfection. That giant sheet of pastry up there is the largest single piece I have ever rolled. And not to toot my own horn, but I have rolled a lot of pastry in my life. This is actually the only challenge the entire recipe. I used a double recipe of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Favorite Flaky and Tender Pie Crust, and split it into two even pieces to rest overnight. I SWEAR BY this recipe, but as I heard once, just use the pastry recipe that works for you. You’ll need double the amount as for a regular double-crust pie, and store bought would be just fine. Roll it into a rectangle that fills any sheet pan that you have.

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The filling is about 4 pounds of sour cherries from that batch we pitted and froze a while back. This is exactly why I did so much – I knew this would be Tala’s birthday treat and I needed a lot of cherries. My pan was 18″ x 13″. Honestly and truly, all that’s in this filling is the freshest sour cherries, the juice of a half a lemon, 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of corn starch, and a half teaspoon of salt. I suggest mixing the cherries, the lemon juice and sugar together, then tasting the cherries to see if they’re sweet enough for you. If not, add more sugar to taste. Stir it, pour it, top it, bake it, ice it. This bakes in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes. You’ll probably have a beautiful rustic crack appear, through which you can tell if the juices are boiling or not. All you really need is bubbly filling and golden brown pastry, so once you have both those visual indicators, you can take it out of the oven. Start checking at 30 minutes.

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Rolling the top pastry is a little easier because it can be a bit smaller than the bottom one. The bottom piece has to fold up and over the edge of the top to seal, and that extra 1.5″ may cause you to tear your hair out. It’s true, there may have been a near pie-pocalypse in the baking of my own World’s Largest Pop Tart, but I was able to rescue it. My only advice is this – make sure your pastry’s edges are quite thin, or they may melt off the rim of your baking sheet while in the oven.

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The last touch is a simple powdered sugar and lemon juice glaze. I poured it in a lattice pattern to make it seem even more like a breakfast pastry. The glaze amps up the visual appeal of the entire thing. I just can’t get over the contrast of those magenta cherries and the golden brown crust. They still manage to have that beautiful glow even when baked. But if you’re looking at this and thinking you hate me because you can’t find sour cherries, this recipe is very adaptable. You can easily use about the same amount (4 lbs) of any other fruit. Great variations could be blueberries, apples, peaches, blackberries… Lots of options here. So, did you get any sour cherries this summer? How did you use them? Let us know in the comments!

Nine Delicious, Affordable Wines Perfect for Summer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis last weekend, Colleen and I hosted a tasting with some friends of ours in her home. The theme was Summertime Wines. We have had some unseasonably pleasant weather in the past few months and we decided it was a suitable topic of discussion; there are so many wonderful, affordable, easy to drink wines out there that just beg to be consumed on a warm summer afternoon. We put together a list of some really great wines we have been dying to try, Colleen cooked up an amazing tasting menu to go along with them, and we invited some friends over to experience it all with us.

I made sure to head over early so I could “help” Colleen with the food and set everything up… and by “help” I actually mean “bring over a kick-ass bottle of real Champagne for us to drink before anybody else gets there.” We enjoyed a bottle of Emmanuel Brochet NV Le Mont Benoit Extra Brut ($68), which we both loved. It was full of brioche, mineral and fruit with a super creamy mousse, zippy acidity and mega drinkability.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce all of the food was prepared, glasses were set out, paper plates were in place and the droves of thirsty friends arrived, we started popping corks & twisting screw caps. Don’t let a screw cap scare you off, tricking you into thinking the wine is of inferior quality. Many “drink now” wines are bottled under a screw cap because they are cheaper, non air-permeable and more sustainable to use than the traditional cork. If you don’t need to age a wine, there’s really no need for a cork.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur wine list for the evening:

2002 Chateau Tour Grise Brut – Saumur, France
Certified Organic & Biodynamic, 30 year old Chenin Blanc (100%) vines grown in limestone soils. Dry. Brioche, tangerine, white flowers, mineral nose; honey, yeast, meyer lemon, kumquat on the palate.

2011 Domaine Rimbert Blanc – Saint-Chinian, Languedoc, France
Organically farmed Marsanne, Roussanne, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Carignan Blanc. Picked in the early morning to preserve acidity. Conservative use of SO2.

NV ‘Il Brut and the Beast’ – Valli Unite, Piedmont, Italy
Organically farmed Cortese & Favorita. Produced in a commune of 15 families in Piedmont. Honey, bright green herbs, mineral on the nose. Slightly sweet & effervescent.

2012 Ameztoi Rubentis Rosado – Gipuzkoa, Spain
Petillant-naturel from the Basque region of Spain, blend of Hondarrabi Zuri (white) & Hondarrabi Beltza (red) grapes. Grown near the Atlantic ocean.

2012 Lioco Indica Rosé – Mendocino, CA
Stainless steel-fermented rosé of Carignan. 60 year old vines, dry farmed & head trained in Mendocino. Aromas of nectarine pit, orange blossom & rock dust lead to the flavors of wild strawberry, watermelon rind & kaffir lime. Bone dry & high in acid.

2012 La Clarine Rosé – Sierra Foothills, CA
Organically farmed, native yeast fermentation, no added SO2 during winemaking, minimal SO2 at bottling. 62% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre, Semillon & Viognier. Aromas of mineral, earth & blood orange.

2011 Matteo Correggia Anthos – Piedmont, Italy
100% Brachetto grown in sandy soils. Stainless steel fermented & aged. Medium bodied; aromas of red fruit & rose petals. Limited use of SO2.

2009 Domaine Dupasquier Gamay – Savoie, France
100% Gamay aged in used foudre. Aromas of earth, iron & mineral with tart cherry & bright acid on the palate.

2010 Hexamer “Quarzit” Riesling – Nahe, Germany
Bouquet of tropical fruit, stony minerals & citrus. Bracing acidity matched by ample sweetness make this a balanced but bold riesling. These grapes are grown in soils composed of Quartzite and clay which lend a ton of minerality to this wine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConsidering the fact that we had such a spectacular wine list, Colleen felt it was only appropriate to make a humungous spread of food to go along with the wines. After all, when you are pouring this many wines, it’s a good idea to make sure people aren’t hungry. Plus, all of our wine selections were loaded with acidity and when you have wine with acid, the natural next step is to enjoy it with food.

Our food pairing menu for the evening:

Bagna Cauda with Poached Vegetables
Emmental Gougeres
Fromage Fort on Toasts
Pepper Steak Crostini with Whipped Horseradish Creme Fraiche
Green Bean Salad with Cherry Tomatoes & Sauteed Shallots
Basil Peach Financier

One of the best things about wines that are suited for warm weather is that they are extremely food-friendly. I love rosé with salad, gougeres with anything oxidative, slightly sweet cakes with an off-dry wine. Colleen made the steak crostini served at room temperature to go along with the two red wines we were serving slightly chilled. The Financier were just a little sweet, mildly herbal and absolutely delicious with the off-dry Riesling.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe crowd favorite wine of the evening was the Ameztoi Rubentis Rosado. This pink wine is a cult favorite in the Bay Area; it’s already sold out from the store we got it at. It’s super fresh, light, aromatic, fizzy, thirst-quenching, mouth watering and perfect in every way. Best of all, it was only $22. The runner up was the Matteo Correggia Anthos Brachetto. This wine was absolutely stunning with feminine, sexy aromas of rose petal & bright red fruit. Everyone was blown away by how prominent the rose aroma was from this light-bodied red wine. Not everyone wants or expects their red wine to smell like a flower, but it was a welcome surprise to all of us. At $19 per bottle, there’s no reason not to pick up one or three if you find this wine in a store.

All of these wines (Champagne excluded) were between $18 and $24 each, and there was not a single wine we didn’t love in the whole lineup. Most of these can be purchased at Ruby Wine in Potrero Hill, SF. Last time I checked, there was still some of that Brachetto left. I would highly recommend you make your way up the hill to grab a few before they’re gone for good, I know I will (and these ladies, below, probably will too)!

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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!

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.