Sunday, August 31, 2008

Spicy Roasted Pecans

This bowl was made by Carol Lebreton , she used the pelvic bone of a chicken to imprint the clay

I came across a version of this recipe a few years ago in Bon Appetit. I ended up adding and deleting some ingredients so I feel comfortable calling this my own. This is a very simple ways to add some sophistication to a cocktail party. These pecans are way sexier than potato chips and even more addictive. A friend of mine once asked if there wasn't some "crack" in these as she couldn't stop eating them.

Spicy Roasted Pecans
1½ teaspoons onion powder
1½ teaspoons garlic powder
1¼ teaspoons coarse kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey
3 cups pecan halves

Heat a non-stick saute pan and add the butter and honey. When the mixture starts to foam add the pecans and toss them to get the honey/butter mixture to coat all the pecans. Dust the pecans with 1/3 of the spice mixture , toss to incorporate and repeat until all the spice mix is gone. Place the pecan mixture in a 250 degree oven for 40 minutes. When the pecans have cooled break them apart and serve. These will hold for a week or so, but trust me, you won't have them in your house that long.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Grilled Red Potato Salad with Bacon-Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Grilled Red Potato Salad with Bacon-Blue Cheese Vinaigrette
Tonight I invited some friends over for dinner. I was craving blue cheese and so I decided to make a warm potato salad that incorporates blue cheese along with a savory bacon vinaigrette.
You par-boil the potatoes and then slice, toss with olive oil and grill until they are a toasty brown. The vinaigrette is simple. Basically you cook 4 slices of chopped bacon, add 1/2 red onion after the bacon has cooked (crisp). Add 1 Tbsp of sugar plus 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar and 1/4 cup of olive oil to the bacon and onion mixture and then toss with the potatoes. Add 1/2 cup of Gorgonzola blue cheese and since I have some potted chives on my deck they were thrown into the mix as well.
This is a great salad with anything grilled.
Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Good Things Come in Small Packages

1998 Chateau Reignac
I was able to purchase some "half" bottles (375 ml.) of a Bordeaux wine that I discovered about 8 years ago. I had found the 1998 Chateau Riegnac online at $9.oo/bottle. FYI, that is a screaming deal!!!
In Bordeaux as it is in the rest of the wine world, the quality of the fruit has the largest single impact on the quality of the wine. Typically soil and micro-climate or as the French call it: "Terroir".
The problem in Bordeaux is that in 1855 just before they hosted the World's Fair the Chamber of Commerce for the City decided to actually put together a list of the quality producers of wine. At that time price was generally perceived as the measure of quality. I don't think that anyone would have an issue with the wines that were selected as part of the 1st Growth:
Chateau Latour
Chateau Lafitte Rothschild
Chateau Margaux
Chateau Haut Brion
Chateau Mouton Rothschild (re-classified from a 2nd growth in 1973)

The real issue is that since that original Classification in 1855 there have been exactly two chateau's who have either been added or bumped up the list. The first wine added was Chateau Cantemerle. That winery was added in 1856. The next revision was for Chateau Mouton Rothschild which after decades of lobbying and a tremendous amount of money spent by the powerful and influential Phillpe de Rothschild they were granted 1st Growth status in 1973.

Today the quality of winemaking has improved in Bordeaux just as it has in the rest of the world. Much more is understood about weather, grape clones, vinification and what constitutes true "ripeness" in grapes.
There are only 61 wineries that have what is called a Cru Classes designation. By all accounts there are probably an equal number who make quality at or above that of the Cru Classe wines. At stake is the sales price of the wines on the list. There are 5 growth classifications and the prices drop steadily from the 1st Growth downward. The quality level from Ch. Latour (1st Growth) to Lynch Bages (5th Growth...but widely considered to be 2nd Growth quality) is very small, but the price differential is almost 10 fold. The 2005 Ch. Latour is retailing at around $1900.00/per bottle. The 2005 Lynch Bages goes for just over $100.00/btl. Keep in mind that the 2005 vintage was spectacular and coupled with the 2000 vintage (the vintage of our lifetime and the best since 1961) we are experiencing a "tipping point" with these wines. Due to the world demand and also to their limited production, the prices on the creme de la creme wines are going to continue to go up.

Chateau Reignac is one of the wines that has no classification and really no pedigree. The winery Reignac is the poster child for a modern-styled, "better than its pedigree" Bordeaux Superieur. The wines high quality is a testament to the exceptional commitment demonstrated by proprietor Yves Vatelot. This large (125 acres) hillside vineyard, planted in gravelly/clay soils, is composed of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is aged on its Lees and it ages in new French Oak ($1000 per barrel) for 22 months. Yields are often lower than many classified growths (1.8 tons per acre). It is typical for quality wine producers to thin or "green harvest" the number of clusters they allow per vine. The magic number is somewhere around 2 tons per acre. Grapes left to grow untended will easily produce 3 to 4 times that amount of fruit. For table wines, yields that high may be acceptable, but for the highest quality producers the decision to reduce yield and concentrate fruit and flavors is to the benefit of the drinker. Wines like Chateau Latour see this yield reduction rewarded with release prices in the $600-1000/bottle range. Chateau Reignac who puts all the care of a Cru Classe wine into its production sees their wines selling in the low $20's /bottle.
The winery has also employed as a consultant the internationally acclaimed Michel Rolland, what does that mean? It means that unless you are Bill Gates or Warren Buffett (Bill drinks Pepsi) you should be spending your hard earned dollars on stocking up on wine like Chateau Reignac. Personally, I don't know how they can spend this much money in the vineyard and in the winery and sell wine in the American market for $20-30/bottle. Take advantage of the prices and the quality of this wine.

1998 Chateau Reignac
Deep garnet with just a hint of brickish color. Complex nose of black cherries, cedar, tobacco and baking spices Medium to full bodied with ripe black cherries and dark chocolate with the slightest hint of vanillian(oak) Lush and concentrated with quite a long finish. Can cellar for 10+ years.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Fruits of our Labor

Bottling 2006-Ash Hollow Vineyard-Walla Walla-Cabernet Sauvignon
In early 2004 it was my fortune to meet Tom Harvey. I had ordered some 2000 Bordeaux futures a couple of years earlier and the wine was getting ready to be delivered. Tom is the co-owner of Portland Wine Storage along with his wife Andria Shirk and his business partner Joe Padulo. The facility they own is a self storage temperature and humidity controlled wine cellar. A person can rent a small locker or in some cases a large room to house a fine wine collection.
When I met Tom, he and Andria were just dating. Another person I met about the same time was Sam Sundeleaf. I met Sam at a wine tasting event in Portland and we discovered that we both stored wine stored at PWS. Soon, Sam, Tom, Andria and I were holding informal wine events and as fall approached in 2004 we discussed actually making wine together. Andria had made wine at home and had a small hobby vineyard in her parents backyard. I had made wine the two previous years as well. My first batch was from a wine kit and my second was from fruit a friend had given me from Seven Hills Vineyard in the Columbia Valley.
In October we went out to a small vineyard site just outside of Beaverton, Oregon and picked about 1200 lbs of fruit. The four of us thought that picking 1/2 a ton would be a snap and we would be out of the vineyard by noon. By 2:00 we still needed about 200 lbs. more and we all agreed at the days end that picking grapes was some of the most strenuous work any of us had done. I had picked apples as a teen, moved sprinkler pipe, bucked hay and I will testify that I have never been so sore and tired.
Our 2004 Pinot Noir ended up being a light colored (quails eye), high acid wine that had a Burgundian edge to it.
In 2005 we found a much better fruit source for our Pinot Noir and we were able to buy grapes from Allen Holstein. Allen owns a vineyard in the Dundee Hills and he also happens to be a vineyard manager who has worked with the likes of Argyle, Stoeller, Domaine Drouhin.

Making wine is easy, making great wine is difficult. The better the fruit is, the higher your odds are of making a truly exceptional wine. If you start with bad fruit it doesn't matter how phenomenal of a winemaker you are, the end result will still be average at best.
One thing that we have understood from the beginning is that wine is made in the vineyard and the less you manipulate it, the better your results will be. Since our equipment is makeshift, we essentially are making wine as the French did 50 years ago. Hand harvesting, hand sorting, and hand crushing. We use older French barrels for our wine so the fruit isn't overpowered by the wood of the barrel and we allow the wine to barrel age a bit longer than a commercial winery would. Our results have been beyond our wildest dreams
2005-Dundee Hills-Holstein Vineyard Pinot Noir
It started out of a curious interest, but since 2004 we have made a Pinot Noir in every vintage. Our 2005 Pinot was an exceptional wine and the 2006 Holstein Vineyard Pinot Noir promises to be even better.
In 2006 we were able to source Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from Ash Hollow Winery in Walla Walla. The resulting wine was bottled in July of 2008 and the wine shows the characteristic chocolate and cherry flavors that are prevalent in wines from that appelation. This wine was a top ten finisher in the 2008 Oregon State Fair competition.
Tom and Andria have both taken Oenology course work and Andria has worked crush for Joe Dobbs and Shea Vineyards. This year Dick Shea has even offered us a small amount of his vineyards fruit. Shea Vineyard is widely accepted to be a Grand Cru (highest classification in Burgundy) vineyard site and our little group is very excited. An interest that turned to a passion that someday may become even a small business venture
. We are making the kind of wines we want to drink and since we don't have stockholders or a board to please we are free to make wine with integrity.

Andria and our hand crafted bottling line
Our hope is that we can share wine with all of our friends and that someday we can share our wine with people whose palate matches our own.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Confrerie des Vignerons de St. Vincent de Macon

During January, St. Vincent of Saragossa, the patron saint of winegrowers, is honored throughout Europe with celebrations, prayers, weather-omen ceremonials, and, of course, wine tasting.

St. Vincent of Saragossa died in the year 304, martyred during the last great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperors Maximian and Diocletian. By early medieval times, St. Vincent had been adopted as a patron saint by vineyard workers and winemakers in Europe – perhaps they identified their struggles against drought, mildew, frost, insects and all of the other tribulations of wine growing with the legendary tortures suffered by St. Vincent.
A story is told that during the Middle Ages the Catholic Church had brought some relics of St. Vincent to Burgundy. The region had experienced multiple poor vintages, but after the Church blessed vineyards with the relics of St. Vincent there were a long string of exceptional vintages that followed.
As devotion to St. Vincent spread, new legends sprang up to seal the identity of the saint with the particular locality.

Today there are statues of St. Vincent in nearly all villages in Burgundy and they are all treated as relics and every years since the 1930's an annual festival called the Saint Vincent Tournante.

As devotion to St. Vincent spread, new legends sprang up to seal the identity of the saint with the particular locality.

The Confrerie des Vignerons de St. Vincent de Macon was founded in 1950, the Brotherhood has thus far held more than 700 chapters and preserved over time the determination of its creators: to discover Burgundy and more particularly the vineyards of Mâconnais.
The Oregon Chapter was started in the 70's by some of the early Pinot pioneers and today is active in promoting wine and wine education.
Initiation Ceremony
The above photo shows the ritual of initiation which explains the life of St. Vincent and also the significance of the Tastevin, the colors of the ribbon and the lapel pins. The yellow of the ribbon represents the sunshine, the green represents the grapevine and the red represents the earth itself. In our case the red was very appropriate as we were at the top of Prince Hill Vineyard, located in the Dundee Hills Appellation in the Willamette Valley. The soil here is a red Jory clay and locals describe this area as "The Red Hills of Dundee".

Chancelier-Norm Schoen
In this day and age of casual dress and little pomp and circumstance in our daily lives, the donning of ritual robes and having a ceremony to welcome new people to our group does make you feel like a part of history. In our case we are fortunate enough to live in a world class wine region (Willamette Valley) and the initiation was held at the home of Dick Erath. Dick was one of the true pioneers of Pinot Noir and his vision and foresight has laid the foundation for the second generation of winemakers.

Norm & Dick Erath
It still amazes me that the Pinot Noir industry is so new that I am able to meet and spend time with some of these visionary winemakers. Dick was one of the founding members of the Portland Confrerie Chapter and he was a wonderful host. I will not forget that day at the top of Prince Hill Vineyard and my afternoon with Dick Erath.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


+ =

I was on a flight from Portland, Oregon to Boise, Idaho on Friday. My seat mates were a young couple who were friendly but completely absorbed in their own little world. When the beverage service came around I ordered a Heiniken (I figure if they are going to jab you for $4.00 bucks, why drink domestic). The guy orders a Jack and Ginger Ale and the woman orders a red wine and a Pepsi. At first I thought she wanted two drinks, but when she was served she proceeded to mix the two drinks together over ice.
I made a comment about never having seen anyone do that and she suddenly became very animated and explained that this is called a Calimocho and it's a drink that is common in Spain and also in the Basque country. She insisted that had I taste this drink; after a quick sip I had to admit that I actually liked it (much to my wine snob chagrin).

The spice notes in the cola when mixed with the red wine exhibit an almost baking spice (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg) component. The sweetness of the cola also help balance the tannins, but the red wine does show some backbone and this for all intents and purposes just a less sweet version of Sangria (maybe kind of a white trash Sangria).
Anyway, when it comes to beverages it pays to keep an open mind and in this case I am going to serve this at the next Spanish theme meal I do as a starter cocktail.

1 Part Red Wine
1 Part Cola

Give this a shot and send a note telling me if you liked this or if I am full of it.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Game Hens

I saw some Cornish Game Hens at the store the other night and grabbed a couple.
I love how you can spatchcock these birds and get your grilling done in less than 30 minutes. I threw together a grilled vegetable salad, roasted some asparagus and grilled some bread. From start to finish I had dinner together in 45 minutes

Game Hen
Toss in a 2003 Turley-Howell Mountain-Rattlesnake Ridge Vineyard Petite Syrah and you have some "Good Eats"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guilty Pleasure

The Duck
I called my son on the way home from work and asked him what he wanted for dinner. He was a bit non-committal, so I took the opportunity to strongly "suggest" that we have tacos for dinner.
Even though I grew up in Idaho I used to work in East L. A. and I know what good straight forward Mexican food looks like. That said, the tacos I was thinking would not fall into that category.
Growing up in rural SW Idaho I remember exactly (one) local Mexican joint. I used to love the hard shell tacos my Mom used to make and dammit that is exactly what I wanted tonight.
Since I was going a little "Low Brow" I decided to go all the way. Fatty ground beef that was seasoned with just salt and pepper, "Mission" brand crisp taco shells, Spanish rice (Rice-a-roni...this actually rocks...especially if you need more salf in your diet) and a cold Macro-brew. Yeah, yeah, yeah, this is cheap beer, but hey, sometimes I just want something cold and fizzy (alcohol helps too) and a beer that doesn't cost $8.00 bucks a six-pack.PBR
Red-neck Taco's?...Nah, just good eatin!

This dish hit almost all of the flavor spots....sweet, sour, salty,bitter. It also hits on the fat and crunch theme that plays a big part in the American diet as well. This is good........even if it isn't good for you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This is leftovers?

Mixed Greens with Smoked Lamb & Spiced Pecans
Well dinner tonight I think can only be described with a quote that Bill Murray used in the movie Caddyshack.

“I have to laugh, because I have out finessed
"I have to laugh, because I have out finessed myself"
Carl Spackler, Assistant Greenskeeper, Bushwood Country Club

Left with nothing but a seemingly empty refrigerator I was able to turn a handful of mixed greens into a pretty, sexy, Summer salad. Okay, okay, before I hurt my arm patting myself on the back I guess I need to acknowledge that it wasn't like I was dividing bread up for the masses or turning water into wine (Though I did have a glass of 1998 Chateau Reignac).
Beside the greens I had some roasted/smoked leg of lamb that I julienned, a few oven dried tomatoes, some (quickles) and to add some extra crunch I tossed in the spiced pecans I used for appetizers yesterday. A little balsamic dressing and toasted baguette smeared with a triple cream brie (it almost looked like butter) and I would be happy to serve this to company-Bon Appetit

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday Dinner

Last night I had a small dinner party. Among my guests were Heather Arndt Anderson (Gild the Voodoolily) and her husband Scott. This was the first time I had a chance to cook for them so I really wanted things to be special.
Heather took this shot of dinner
All in all I was happy with how dinner turned out. The lamb picked up a subtle smokiness due the the applewood I used. The lentil salad that Heather brought was terrific (what is not to like about a smidge of truffle oil?).
2000 Ch Haut Batailley, 2000 Ch Batailley, 2004 Ch Monbosquet, 2000 Clos l' Eglise, 2000 Ch Reignac
Toss in a some good Bordeaux and you just about have yourself a party. When I bought these wines in future back in 2000 this is exactly what I had in mind. Food and wine are meant to be shared with friends and family. I am glad I have such great friends to share them with.

Here is what was on the menu.


House Cured Olives
Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta
Spiced Pecans

French Lentils
with Grilled Baby Pattypan & Parsley Vinaigrette
Grilled Asparagus

Applewood Grilled Leg of Lamb
Lamb studded with garlic and rubbed with sea salt,
tellicherry black pepper
& rosemary-roasted on an applewood fire
Oven Dried Tomatoes
Cannelli Beans

Oregon Wild Blackberry Ice Cream

Oregon Wild Blackberry Ice Cream

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Art y Pico Award

I have my friend Foodycat to thank for giving me the Art y Pico Award. Apparently sometime in the past six months I have shown at least a hint of creativity and provided some material to the blogosphere that a least one of my readers felt deserved recognition. Thank Foodycat!

Okay so now I get to nominate 5 people whose blogs I can't go without. First off, I would nominate my friend Heather at Gild The Voodoolily but she already received the award and I don't want her getting a big head and all.

Here are my fav five (in no particular order)

Bruce Bauer over at Eat. Dring. Think. Bruce happens to live in Portland so his perspective hits home even harder as we seem to frequent some of the same places. He also a friend and the owner of one of the coolest wine shops in the U.S.A (says Imbibe Magazine). Bruce's shop Vino His motto is: "Making the world a better place, one bottle at a time-Wine, not brain surgery".

Brittany at The Pie Lady is my next must read. She is a professional pastry chef in Seattle and what she cooks at home is awe inspiring. She has personally been responsible for me dusting off my ice cream maker this Summer.

Gina at Doña Lupe’s Kitchen is a favorite as well. She cooks a huge variety of Mexican influenced food. Her writing is very touching and the story of her grandmother (Doña Lupe) is one of the best pieces I have come across on the internet.

introduced me to Zen over at Chefs Gone Wild. He is a fabulous chef and his writing is very funny and I love his outsider perspective (he is French) on American culture (or lack there of).

My final blog for mention is Alejandra Ramos at Always Order Dessert . Her blog was one of the first really "serious" food blogs I happened across. I remember thinking that "There are other people out there who really take their food seriously".

Congrats to all-

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lavash Crackers

Lavash Crackers
Saturday morning and I am making coffee (Since it's Portland I am drinking Stumptown...Italian Roast, hmmm...maybe I will write about this amazing shop and it's owner Duane Sorenson, but that is another story).
Anyway, I am having a dinner party tomorrow and I want to have some special nibbles for my guest. I have a sh*tload of stuff going on today so I didn't have a ton of time, but I did have 20 minutes to spare.
I had some Lavash (traditional Jewish flatbread) in the refrigerator and so pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees and got down to business.
This is a recipe that you can easily make your own by what you toss on the flatbread before you bake it. Here is my take on Lavash Crackers.

Lavash Crackers

2 Sheets Lavash
Olive Oil
Seasame Seeds (black and white)
Caraway Seeds
Poppy Seeds
Kosher Salt

Lightly brush the Lavash with Olive Oil (really lightly),

Toss any of the above seeds or those you want to add to the mix on top of the oiled Lavash.

Cut the Lavash to the desired size and pop into a 350 degree oven for 9-10 minutes.

Can you say crispy, savory, & delightful?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Sometimes I actually don't feel like cooking, but the last thing I want is to go out for fast food.
Tonight I was in a funk and decided see what was in my refrigerator. Hmmm, some leftover Flat Iron Steak, some Hard Italian Salami, Rustic Pate, Goat Gouda, an Aged Gouda a bit of Brie and some of my favorite Cornichon pickles. Damn, put this on a nice plate and you would feel good about someone only charging you $16 dollars (not including service).

"House Olives"
Throw in some of my "House Olives" and you would think you were eating out. I love to buy a variety of brined olives and then toss them together with olive oil, bay leaves, corriander, peppercorns (green, black, white), fennel and red pepper flakes. I keep a jar of these around at all times since they go with virtually anything I am cooking for dinner.

Buon Appetito!

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Here it is Wednesday and I am starting preparation for a dinner party I am hosting on Sunday. My fellow food blog friend Heather Arndt Anderson and her husband Scott (and Scott's Mom Linda) are coming to my house for dinner. Probably one of the coolest things that has happened since I started writing this blog is the correspondence I have received about the food I like to cook. The actual "coolest" thing is having met Heather and Scott through my blog. These two are a fun young couple and together we have been to a gnarly beer event, a dinner at their house and the coup de grâce, the pig roast that Heather threw for Scott's birthday.
This weekend I am having them over and I get to cook for them. I am planning to cook a leg of lamb and one of the vegetables I like to do this time of year is a tomato dish.
that I call:

Oven Dried Tomatoes
20 Ripe Plum Tomatoes-halved and seeded
2 Garlic Cloves-minced
1 Tsp Fresh Thyme
2 Shallots-minced
Olive Oil
Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the plum tomatoes with the olive oil, shallots, garlic and thyme and season generously with salt and pepper. Turn the tomatoes cut side up and roast them for about 3½ hours, or until they are somewhat dry but still plump.

Yields: 40 halves

This only sounds like alot of Tomatoes. Once you make these you will want to boost the recipe the next time you dig this recipe out. If I lived in Tuscany instead of Portland, Oregon I would be partially drying these in the sun. Since I am in Oregon and I want to get these tomatoes dried before Halloween I am going to tossing them in a very low oven. I will post the menu for my dinner on Friday-Ciao!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


From time to time I write a little about wine. Wine I drink, wine I collect, what mailing lists I am on, blah....blah....blah...blah! After all, this blog did start out with a wine focus and since the world of wine geeks is an inch wide and a mile deep this blog gives me a small platform to share my humble opinion.
I am sure many of you are looking at the above photo and thinking (WTF?). A pink wine and a screw top? Let me tell you this, there has been a huge paradigm shift with alternative wine closures such as screw tops (actually Stelvin Caps) making huge inroads into with wine industry. Where these closures were once the indication of a "cheap" bottle, today if you know anything about wine you will know that a large number of $20-40 wines are using these Stelvin Caps.
The above wine is a Rose made from Merlot grapes grown at the Celilo Vineyard in Washington State.

As a quick primer, I want to explain in rudimentary terms that Rose wines can be made three different ways.

1. Red wine and white wine are fermented separately and then blended together to create a Rose.

2. The winemaker may decide that in the course of making a red wine that they want to concentrate the juice to skin ration (less juice to more skins) to boost the flavor profile. What the winemaker will do is actually do what the French refer to as a Saignée
. This process involves the draining off of a small percent of the grape juice. Since the unfermented juice has had little skin contact the color will be may range from a light pink to a deep Salmon or even Copper color.

3. Rose may be made intentionally by crushing the red grapes and treating the wine as though it were a white wine. White wines are lightly crushed as they are brought in from harvest and see little skin contact. Red wine on the other hand will have extended skin contact (two weeks or so). The Rose wine is then fermented in either stainless steel tanks or neutral oak barrels.

Personally I love Rose and some of the finest Champagnes in the world are technically Rose wines. If you grew up drinking White Zinfandel then these wines will be a suprise to you. Most of them are bone dry, with a hint of red fruit (think Strawberry, Raspberry, Cherry, Cranberry) and a big dose of crisp acidity. They are perfect chilled as an alternative to a cocktail and they go well with almost all poultry.

2007-Phelps Creek- Ceililo Vineyard Rose
2007 Phelps Creek-Celilo Vineyard Rose-Dark for a Rose, almost a Copper color (the skins had 4 days contact on the juice). The wine is made from Merlot grapes and shows bright ripe strawberries on the nose. Good fruit on the palate that is balanced with a crisp acidity and a clean finish. While the wine is fermented almost completely dry, the fruit is big enough to give the slightest hint of sweetness. This is about as far away from a White Zinfandel as you can get. I love this wine!

Monday, August 11, 2008


With Summer really in full swing and the produce overflowing my house I knew I wanted a great salad with dinner tonight. I had a phase of my life in the 90's where I was convinced I was part Italian (maybe I had been kidnapped by Gypsy's). I cooked peasant Italian, regional Italian, American-Italian, et al. It took me about five minutes of navel gazing for the light bulb to finally come on, but when it lit it really shown brightly.
Panzanella is a rustic Tuscan (peasant....I am guessing) salad. The ingredients are probably in your kitchen right now. Stale bread, fresh tomatoes, capers, olive, red onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, etc. The variations are wide and I have seen recipes with the addition of tuna, hard boiled eggs and the like. Here is my version of this Italian classic.

1 loaf of Italian bread (stale, and cut into 1" cubes)
1 lb. Tomatoes (plum, cherry, pear or what ever is fresh) course chop
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Red Onion, sliced razor thin
1 handful Fresh Basil, chiffonade
2 Tbsp. Capers
1/4 cup Olives (assorted)
1/2 handful of Italian Parsley, course chopped
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup Olive Oil

Combine all the above in a large bowl and toss. I personally like my bread a little firm, but I like when the bread acts like a small sponge and absorbs the oil and vinegar. This salad is best if you can toss it and let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two.
Buon Appetito-

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Jerk

The Jerk
When I hear a mention of "The Jerk" I get visions of Steve Martin and his character Navin R. Johnson.
Waiter: Would monsieur care for another bottle of the Chateau Latour?

Steve: Ah yes - but no more 1966. Let's splurge! Bring us some fresh wine! The freshest you've got - this year! No more of this old stuff.

Waiter: Oui monsieur.

The other night I was watching the Food Network and Bobby Flay's "Throwdown" program. Truth be told I watch that program like most people watch "South Park" or the "Simpson's".
If you haven't seen it, the premise of "Throwndown" is that Bobby is given a Mission Impossible-like assignment at the beginning of the show. Every episode gives an outline of a specific food , cuisine or regional favorite. These items showcase a single person who is recognized as the "expert" in that category. From that, Bobby's challenge is to come up with a recipe to challenge the showcased favorite and at the end of the program the recipes are blind tasted by impartial judges to determine a favorite.
Bobby has taken on a couple of little old ladies who bake awesome pies, he has BBQ'd against a woman, had an ice cream challenge and this last week I saw him go up against a Jamaican born, CIA trained chef who was supposed to have the best Jerk seasoned Ribeye anywhere.
The bitch of these shows is that though they produce Bobby's recipes they don't include the recipes of the people he challenges. I could tell that the rub/marinade that Nigel Spence was noted for was a recipe I had to have.
Thank god for the "Internets". It took me about a minute to track down the recipe for both the Jerk and the sauce Nigel topped the steak with.

A big fat full credit goes to Nigel and his restaurant called "Ripe" for the recipe below.
Jerk Marinated Ribeye w/Chadon Beni Sauce, Grilled Ratatoullie & Garlic Toast


At the restaurant, we use the "Choice" Grade Cut.
Feel free to use "Select" or "Prime" for this recipe,
or any other cut from beef, pork or chicken. This Jerk Rub is very versatile.

1 16oz cut of boneless or bone-in Rib-Eye Steak.

Ingredients for Jerk Rub:

1tsp Nutmeg
2tsp White Pepper
¼ C Black Pepper
½ C Kosher salt
¾ C freshly ground Allspice
¾ C Brown Sugar
¾ C Orange Juice
1 whole Scotch Bonnet pepper
1 bunch Jamaican Thyme(about 10 stalks, picked from hard stems)
8 whole Garlic cloves
¾ C chopped Scallions (green onions)
2 cups whole Ajicito pepper (flavorful but not hot)


Put ajicito peppers, scotch bonnet pepper, garlic cloves, thyme and scallions in food processor and pulse until it forms a paste. Then add the remaining ingredients except for the orange juice and blend. Slowly stream OJ into the processor until all is incorporated. You may adjust the amount of Orange Juice used depending on how dry or wet you prefer the rub to be. We like it be the consisency of a chutney.

Smear paste over one side of steak and season the other side with salt and pepper. Marinate for 1 hour or up to 48 hours. Place steak on a hot grill and cook to just before desired doneness.

Allow steak to rest (off the heat) for 10 minutes after cooking to redistribute juices and the carry-over cooking will bring it to your desired doneness. Then bite into that baby and lose your marbles!

This Jerk Rub Recipe should make enough for at least 10 large Rib-Eye Steaks.

The Rub can be stored in a tightly covered container in the refridgerator for up to 2 weeks.


Ajicito peppers can be found in most Latin markets. It is also called "seasoning peppers" in Caribbean circles. It looks and smells just like a Scotch Bonnet pepper, but without the heat. It is used in the recipe to increase that scotch bonnet flavor, but can be substituted by adding a bit more green onions and scotch bonnet (if you can handle the additional heat). After letting this rub sit for a couple of days, the heat mellows out significantly anyway, so make a large batch by doubling or tripling the recipe. You won't be disappointed, and it lasts for weeks in the fridge.

Jamaican thyme is a little more "earthy" than the regular stuff found in grocery stores, but can readily be substituted with any thyme available.

Kitchen Secret: Add a 1/2 teaspoon of the Rub at the last minute, to any curry dish you are preparing, to send your "foodie" friends into a "Question & Answer" session at your table!

Chadon Beni Sauce

(As Seen on "Throwdown" with Bobby Flay)

Chadon Beni (also called Shadow Benny in Trinidad & Culantro in Latin markets)

has a broad, flat green leaf. Its a cousin of Cilantro

which can be used as a substitute in the recipe.

1 cup densely packed Chandon Beni leaves.

1 cup loosely packed fresh flat italian parsley leaves

1 cup lime juice (fresh squeezed if available)

1/2 fresh scotch bonnet pepper (or habanero)

1/4 cup chopped scallions

6 whole peeled garlic cloves

1 tablespoon salt

Put all ingredients in blender and blend till smooth-add a little extra lime juice if puree is too thick

Culantro is VERY similar to cilantro in flavor, just a bit more powerful. Cilantro is a great substitute.

The Jerk rub/marinade was EXTREMELY flavorful and even with only an hour of marinade time the flavors were jumping in my mouth. I used this rub a couple of days later and the heat had cooled enough that I thought you could almost double the Scotch Bonnet peppers (I like heat though and these peppers are like putting a lit match into your mouth). So, use your judgement, but do give this a whirl.
The Chadon Beni Sauce is well worth the effort too. It is a Chimichurri, but with a serious Island attitude.
Bridgeport Brewery Hop Czar-If you don't like hoppy beer, then leave this to us who do.
Typically I have wine with dinner but I knew that it was going to take something massive to battle the spice and heat of this meal. Since I live in Portland, Oregon (also know as "Munich on the Willamette") I decided to go with a local ale for my adult beverage match. Portland has more breweries per capita and possibly just by sheer number than any city in the USA. Tonights selection of a Bridgeport Brewer's Hop Czar Imperial India Pale Ale was just about right. The ale has big alcohol of around 8% and also about 100 IBU's (international bitterness units.....this mean HOPPY!!!) Hop Czar is a strong blend of Nugget, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial hops." If you are an avowed "Hophead" this is for you. Unfortunately this is pretty much a local phenomenen, so if you don't live in the Northwest ( it sucks to be you), then your chances of getting and drinking this ale is pretty slim.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Grilled Ratatoullie

Grilled Ratatoullie
The longer I cook the more I am reminded that what is most important is the ingredients. Sometimes the most simple, clean and minimally prepared ingredients lead to a dish that is transcendental.
Does it get any simpler?
Sunday at my house I always cook a restaurant quality meal and tonight it was pretty simple. Here was the lineup.


House Cured Olives


Grilled Rib Eye w/ Gorgonzola Compound Butter

Grilled Ratatoullie
Grilled Garlic Bread

Grilled Rib Eye Steak, Grilled Ratatoullie & Grilled Garlic Bread
I paired this with a 2005 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon that I had made myself. I had gone out to the Columbia Gorge on Friday to wine taste and hit four wineries during the day. I was surprised that the Cabernet I had made beat the pants off of anything I sampled during the day. My friends and I had sourced fruit from Ash Hollow Vineyards in 2005 and the Cabernet Sauvignon we made with their grapes was definitely a $30-45 dollar quality wine (props to us!).

Anyway, enough of the wine talk and on to the dinner menu. Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis (the tens of you who do) know I am the Bobby Flay of my "Hood". I love to grill and I BBQ/grill 200 days a year. Tonight the grilled ratatoullie I made was absolutely transcendental. The flavors of all the ingredients were perfect and and I could taste each and every individual vegetable as it crossed my palate. It amazes me still that a dish of simply prepared vegetables can taste this good. The steak and the grilled bread was stellar, but the vegetables deserve an encore. Here is the recipe:

Grilled Ratatoullie
1/2 lb. Pear or Cherry Tomatoes
1 Eggplant
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Zucchini
1 Yellow Onion
1/2 Red Onion
3 Garlic Cloves (mince)
Thyme (3-4 sprigs, leaves only)
Parsley (use your judgement)
Olive Oil (a splash)
Bobby Flay is in the House
Cut the pepper in half and stem and seed. Cut the zucchini in half and do the same with the onions. Brush the vegetables with olive oil and place the pepper, onion, eggplant and zucchini on a medium hot grill and roast for 4-5 minutes on each side. After you pull all the vegetables go ahead and toss on the tomatoes for about 2 minutes...just plump these small tomatoes up and toss with the rest of the veggies.
When the veggies are charred, go ahead and pull them aside.

After the veggies have cooled to the touch, go ahead and course chop and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic,thyme and parsley. Serve this dish slightly warm (right off the grill) or at room temperature.
Grilled Ratatoullie-this will make you forget the movie-