Monday, August 17, 2009

BOTTEGA AT LAST!



Back to Yountville California, located just north of Napa, this is where you will find the V Market. More importantly this is where Napa Style and Bottega are located, both are the creations of Chef Michael Chiarello. As you know last year I met Michael at Napa Style, I acquired some fantastic salt and drank some really good wine. This year on our trip, my goal was to eat at Bottega, Michaels new restaurant that is located directly across from Napa style. After spending the day wine tasting, my guy and I arrived at the V Market just moments before Napa Style closed and managed to slip in and buy a bunch of salt…and apparently ended up with Herbes de Napa (a special blend of rosemary, lavender, fennel, thyme, savory and bay). I was aiming for grey salt and got the herbes by mistake…They have actually turned out to be pretty tasty!

After our whirlwind through Napa Style, which I am pretty sure my guy enjoyed this time more than the last trip, we took my salt and had dinner at Bottega. Anything more than five minutes in a store and my guy starts getting restless!

Bottega has a warm, rustic yet refined feel to it. The covered patio is a combination of couches for lounging, a wood burning fireplace and seating for dinning. The feel is of someone’s personal out door living space. The d├ęcor has lots of reds, oranges, and chocolate browns, I thought it was beautiful. There were strings of white lights all around that I am sure at night make the area glow.


My guy and I opted to enjoy the great late afternoon weather and sit out side. Coming from Phoenix there is no sitting out doors this time of year!
Have I mentioned how much I like salt? My favorite touch, was that on the tables instead of a salt shakers there is a small bowl of salt with a little spoon! Am I crazy to think that is awesome? It wasn’t your usual salt either, it was grey salt, and I probably could have eaten it all by itself. Don’t worry I didn’t…I did sample it a lot though!


Chef Chiarello has created a menu of micro-regional Italian cuisine using house made ingredients and focusing as much as possible on local produce and other products.

The wine list is extensive and from what I can tell is all Napa and surrounding area wines. You can spend anywhere from $24 to $500 on one bottle! I chose a 2007 Zinfandel A. Rafanelli, from Dry Creek $45. Dry Creek is located in Healdsburg Ca, and the winery specializes in Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.



When first seated our server Murph brought out a bowl of rustic bread with a dipping sauce of olive oil, garlic and herbs…SO good!



For our meal we decided to share, in the spirit of trying not to eat until we are miserable! We ordered the Smoked & Braised Natural Short Ribs served with preserved-lemon spinach and smokey jus. That was $28 and worth every penny! The short ribs were moist and falling apart tender, with awesome flavor! The spinach was also cooked just right with a hint of lemon. Even the man, who doesn’t do spinach unless it is swimming in cheese liked it.

As a side ( $6 each) we chose the Delfina Potatoes, smashed & fried with crisp garlic, parsley, lemon and flake salt. These were absolutely spectacular! The crispy garlic and salt made these potatoes! I have been thinking about them ever since!


The service at Bottega was friendly, knowledgeable and prompt. Murph split the Short ribs and spinach at the table for us, all while telling stories about Michael as though they were best friends. Not sure if Chef Chiarello is “just the best boss ever!” or if it is part of the entertainment. All in all the afternoon was perfect! The food was even better than I had expected, the wine and the company were wonderful and the atmosphere and attention to details made for a relaxing afternoon. What a great way to spend a day!

Bottegga would receive a 6 sister rating if that was possible...But since that is just crazy talk , I give it a five sister rating. If you are ever in the area don't miss the opportunity to eat at Bottega. There is even the possibility that Chef Micheal himself could be there, Chef coat and apron on! If you see him tell him the Wino says hi!
Bon Appetite!

Lunch:Tuesday through Sunday: 11:30 am - 2:30 pm.
Dinner:Monday through Thursday: 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Friday & Saturday: 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Sunday: 5:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Sunday, August 16, 2009

SUCH AN HONOR!

I know I said that next we would be talking about Bottega, but when I turned on the computer this morning I discovered I had been given an award! I haven't gotten an award since....hmmmm not sure when. Moments like this make this blogging thing all worth while. Most days I feel I am just venting or talking to myself. But there really is someone out there, and you like me! What a great way to start the day. Look at my pretty award!
My friend Dawn at Fry Moments gave me this award, she and I went to high school together, though I feel we never really got to know each other back then. This is probably for the best because I know I am a much different person now than that high school girl. Dawn is a wonderful mother, talented photographer, successful gardener and foodie extraordinaire. I am proud to call her my friend. I hope you check out her blog and enjoy getting to know her as I have, thank you Dawn for my award!
Now I must pass this award on to a few fellow bloggers. Narrowing it down is going to be tough! Since starting this blog I have met so many talented people, that I never would have met otherwise.
I think my first award will have to go to my fellow Wandering Sister, The Diva Mom. She is the one who got me to do this blog, and even though she is not always on top of the posting, when she does it is truly entertaining! Just because she has two small adorable kids and a husband to manage, I don't see why she cant just hang out on the computer writing and eating Bon Bons all day....just kidding my dear! Keep up the good work!

The next would have to go to another Diva, this one was one of the first new friends to comment on my blog. I don't know about you but comments are like awards in themselves! They reassure us that someone is actually out there reading and even enjoying what we have to say. Diva on a diet at Beach Eats, is always entertaining and way more organized than I am on the blogging! I love the Thirsty Thursdays, She makes mixology really live up to its name. Also her humor is such that I feel like I have known her for years! Thank you Diva for all the inspiration!

My next award goes to Lori Lynn at TaStE WiTh ThE EyEs, her blog has inspired me to post quality photos. Her recipes and photos are so beautiful that they are a work of art. I had no idea how much fun it was to photograph food so that it makes you hungry just looking at it. After all do any of you really buy cookbooks that have no pictures? Personally I am more about the pictures than the actual instructions. Thank you Lori Lynn!

I am going to chose one more, even though all the blogs I follow or even run across deserve praise in one form or the other. After all I would not be reading them if they were bad!
Number Four award goes to Lisa Orgler at The Lunch Box Project . Lisa has a whimsical way with food, that brings back childhood memories…the good ones. This is another blog that has inspired me to try new things and to think artistically again.

I do hope you check all of these great blogs and enjoy them as much as I do. While you are there tell them The Wino sent you. Also check out all my friends that I am following, you just might find a new friend too! If you have a blog that is worthy of this award please feel free to pass it along, and let me know so I can enjoy them as well!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Wino Revealed! GASP!!!

Yountville / Napa Valley
V Marketplace
6525 Washington St.Yountville, CA
(707) 945-1229

Have I ever mentioned that one of my favorite Chefs to watch on TV is Michael Chiarello. I loved the show Easy Entertaining and then the new show on Fine living, Napa Style. Michael makes cooking for a group of people look easy and fun. How I wish I could be one of what seems like thousands of very close friends that gets invited to hang out in his Napa Valley house, while he prepares great food in a unique way. I know it is just television, but I am sure those shows were totally realistic and of course Michael is a perfect host! If you know better DO NOT burst my bubble!


On last years trip to Napa with my guy, I insisted that we stop in at Napa Style, Chef Chiarello's store and cafe in Yountville. I had been told that on that exact day Michael would be cooking at the cafe! My boyfriend, not being the shopping, food TV watching type was sure this would be a waste of precious wine tasting time. He also was under the impression that I was going to just pop in and out of this store and we would be on our way...He had never seen me around somewhat famous people of whom I truly admire. Yes I was nervous!


Let me say my boyfriend is also kind of the bull in a china shop type, so he of course walks into Napa Style, and heads straight for the Cafe so he can meet this Michael fellow... I first almost tackle him! This is not how I do things! I am basically pretty shy and I take the VERY slow approach...(some might call it stalkings) wandering around the store slowly browsing and sneaking peaks at the kitchen in the back of the store...yes Chef Michael is indeed back there making salads and sandwiches....I skulk around the store some more... Taste each of the large selection of salts...Taste some wine(liquid courage)....frustrate the heck out of my boyfriend who just keeps asking, "Are we gonna order a sandwich or what?" He does not understand my process! After...maybe 30 minutes of "shopping" I am told we are ordering food or we are leaving, FINE! Lets do this!

So we order a fancy BLT, my guy jokes around with Michael about how he has way more grey hair than on TV. This would have been embarrassing but, my guy has a full head of premature grey hair! So Michael being the perfect host I assume he is, takes it in stride and jokes right back. There is casual banter between the two, as I just stand there silently like a lump on a log...That is all part of my process! Then we sit and eat, and I drink some of the Chiarello Zinfandel, which I recall being really good...biased, maybe.

After a few minutes Micheal comes out of the kitchen to greet some of the other crazy fans hanging around watching him cook (ok maybe I was the only crazy one). Chef Chiarello approached our table....and I have no idea what was said! All I remember saying was can I shake your hand? He was very nice and let me, and yes eventually I let go. My guy not being in the same fog I was said "hey how about a picture?" So Michael and I stood next to each other and smiled, my guy of course made jokes about Michael not getting handsy (party pooper!) and Michael made a comment about my guy being bigger than him (by quite a few inches) so not to worry (party pooper!). And then he moved on....as did we.

Of course I also spent a large amount of money on grey salt and some pink salt to take home with me. I can not really remember the rest of that day other than sending the picture to everyone I knew! Some knew who he was and were impressed others said "who is that guy?" I still say Michael Chiarello is a fabulous host and Napa Style is also a great way to spend some time if you are ever in Yountville California.

Since this was pre-blogging days for me I did not get any other pictures of the interior of Napa Style...and I was too busy "shopping".You will just have to check out the website or go visit for yourselves. This one time only I will share THE picture of Michael and I, The Wino Reavealed!
Next trip, BOTTEGA!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Heat Will Not Keep Me Down...

As some of you may have noticed I have been slacking in the posting of blogs lately. This heat I live in seems to melt my brain and put a dry damper(is that posible?) on any creativity, and of course any desire to cook. But yesterday I decided I was in the mood for Mexican food, actually I have been in the Mexican food mood for a while now, particularly beef tacos....But not today!Maybe its the theory that if you eat spicy food when it is really hot out side, it cools your body down...Really it just makes you sweat profusely and turn on lots of fans to cool the sweat. Appetizing huh?! Or maybe it is the cold beer that usually accompanies Spicy food.

Living in Phoenix Arizona there are two things you can not avoid, the heat and great Mexican food. Though not all of the Mexican food in Arizona is great, but since there is a Mexican restaurant on pretty much every corner, you have to eat a lot to find the bad ones.


Recently I went to my local farmers market and found that Hatch green chile's were now in season. These chile's are a bit more spicy than the Anaheim Chile but look a lot like them. Long green Chile peppers that are perfect for things like chile Relleno, diced up in chili or as I plan to do green Chile cheese enchiladas.


I decided to roast the chile's and use them in strips. Of course you can also used canned or jarred mild green chile's and red peppers for this recipe if you are not into the roasting peppers thing. It does take some of the burning of the finger tips out of the equation, but not as much fun!

Home made enchilada sauce (way easier than it sounds)

This makes enough for four single servings of enchiladas, I used half and froze the rest.
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
2 large roasted red peppers blended till smooth
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 tsp chili powder
3 cloves of garlic minced


Simmer this on low to combine all the flavors for about 30 minutes.



To build the enchiladas I used individual baking dishes. Lightly fry corn tortillas and dredge them through the sauce, place it one in the bottom of each pan. Place two 1/2 inch wide green chile strips ion top of that sprinkle with cheddar and pepper jack cheese. Top with another slightly fried tortilla and repeat the process till you run out of room or peppers. Top layer should be tortilla , top with extra sauce and shredded cheddar. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until bubbly and slightly brown on top.


I served this with a Ceasar Salad, because after all the Ceasar salad is originally from Mexico. And for the beverage of the night I went with an Argentina Malbec, Tapiz 2007 . A little spice with a big red wine is a wonderful thing!




This morning Phoenix had one of the first monsoon storms, and unlike the eastern half of the country, we get VERY excited when it rains. Today it is noticeably cooler and much more moist outside. I hope this will help revive some creativity and shriveled brain cells and that I will be back here with some regularity soon!


Until then, Bon Appetite!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dessert is a rare thing.

I am usually not a dessert person, I am more savory than sweet. But while I was watching the show on the food network "The best thing I ever ate" I saw something tempting. There was a mention of an ice cream shop in San Francisco called Bi-rite Creamery. This chef, I don't remember her name, was talking about an ice cream sundae. Sam's Sundae is Chocolate ice cream with bergamot olive oil, maldon sea salt and whipped cream....very intriguing! Of course while I was in San Francisco I looked up this ice cream shop, not yet sure I would be brave enough to try this concoction. Unfortunately timing and location were not right...I did not get to the the Bi-rite.


But the Sam's Sundae hovered in my mind, I could not get over the idea of olive oil on ice cream and Salt? Salt is my favorite food group!


So weeks after first hearing about this dessert, I broke down and decided to try it! Not wanting to waste any precious ingredients I started out very small.

One very small scoop of chocolate ice cream, a drizzle of Clementine Olive Oil from the Olive Press and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.
One bite and OH MY! This is the GREATEST thing I have ever had! And I only have about a half of a cup of this olive oil left...I must find more! Have any of you ever tried such a thing? If
not you must!





CAUTION: This may become addicting ;-)


Bo Appetite!

Bi-Rite Creamery
3692 18th St San Francisco, CA 94110
(410) 464-8000

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gourmet taste on a real world budget.

I have decided to take a break from my vacation and share a great summer dinner with you. As much as I love wine, I have bored myself silly with the wine writing...so sad! Guess its more fun to drink than write about. When I continue my journey through wine country, I will be making some changes to the writing style!

Short Ribs are one of my absolute favorite pieces of meat, especially in the summer when my crock pot is in full swing! Short ribs braised in red wine until falling apart and served with herb stuffed
Artichokes …oh my, can you get more Gourmet?! Well yes you could, by serving itty bitty portions and charging an arm and a leg! We are not doing that today, we are having reasonable portions at Costco (cheep) prices, lets do this!
Now I am serving only two people and mostly eyeballed the measurements, and since this is all about what you like use your judgment. Very importantly you must start this process early! The longer you can let the short ribs cook the better!
For the Short ribs, I bought boneless, they seem to have more meat on them and really that is what we are after. I am sure the bone in kind have more flavor, but they also seem to be a lot more work for not much reward.

2-3 medium to large garlic cloves
1 large shallot sliced
1 large sprig of rosemary
½ cup vegetable broth or stock
Beef stock ( I used the packet from Trader Joe's and mixed it with the veggie stock)
1 bottle of red wine, use one that is full bodied with lots of flavor. I used Shiraz and I went with cheep.
Season the short ribs with sea salt and black pepper and seared it quickly in a hot pan with olive oil.


Set the ribs aside, and in the same pan on medium heat saute Garlic just smashed with the side of a large knife. Add the shallot and stir this on medium until they are slightly caramelized I feel this just adds a bit more depth to the flavor. Add to the pan ½ a cup vegetable stock and beef stock to de glaze the pan (getting all the good stuck on bits). Pour this mixture into the crock pot and place the ribs on top, throw in the rosemary sprig and pour in the red wine. Use the entire bottle or all but one glass…the cook needs a glass after all!
Set the crock pot on low and let cook for at LEAST 8 hours. Go run errands, lay by the pool, clean the house or just sit and watch TV…and as the hours go by the house will smell better and better!

When you decide you can not take the great smells any longer, pull the short ribs out of the liquid and place on a platter, and cover. Smack anyone who tries to snack on it before you serve them, you of course being the chef should definitely do some quality control… Pour the liquids into a sauce pan straining out the chucks (onions and garlic). Simmer until it is reduce by ½ and ideally coats the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat.

(45 minutes-1 hour before meal time start Artichokes)
Artichokes, as we have discussed are also a favorite of mine, this time I decided to try something new. I decided to de-choke the artichoke and stuff it with a herb and olive oil stuffing (pretty much like pesto). It looked absolutely beautiful before cooking and delish after, even if I did over cook it a bit…it was falling apart! But since my guy loves his vegetables on the verge of becoming soup he was ecstatic! Maybe I started on the wine too soon…Just kidding!
The stuffing included (not sure how much of each, that whole no measuring thing again!)
Garlic maybe 3 cloves
Rosemary about 4-5 stems worth of leaves
Basil about 1/2 cup-ish
Olive oil couple swirls
Salt and
Pepper
a pinch...
Blended in my hand mini food processor.
Cut the tops of the artichokes off so that the spikes are removed. Using a long pointy knife cut out the light purple leaves at an angle. Pull out as many leaves as you can scrape out the remaining leaves with a spoon, get all the fur (choke) out and rinse. If you are doing a lot of artichokes and want to keep them from turning brown while you work just drop them in an ice bath with some lemon juice and water. Try to spread the leaves out as much as possible and drizzle the pesto mixture between the leaves and into the middle of the artichoke. Press the leaves back together and place in a steamer. Two medium to large artichoke cook in about 45 minutes on low to med low. After about 30 minutes test to see if the leaves pull off easily. When they come of with a slightly firm tug, turn off the heat and take the lid off. They will continue to cook a bit and unless you like your veggies mushy you want to slow the cooking down.

Serve the short ribs with the reduced red wine sauce drizzled over the top, or in my case poured over, I am a huge fan of sauce! Artichokes on the side are good alone or with your favorite dipping sauce. Of course this would not be a gourmet meal with out a big red wine! A Cabernet from Chile was this winos choice, at Trader Joe's this wine is $10. Chile makes great Cabernet's and this was no exception, with bold flavors of dark chocolate and a hint of leather and earth it was excellent with the Short ribs and paired well with the rosemary and basil on the artichoke.



In the winter when you need to heat up the house this could be made in the oven and be paired with mashed potatoes, but it is summer and I am thinking the oven is on vacation until further notice.

Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Great food and comfortable shoes!

It is time to take a break from the wine tour and have some food. I want to tell you about my favorite place in San Francisco to eat.
Nob Hill Cafe Pizzeria/Trattoria
1152 Taylor Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415)776-6500
My guy brought me to San Francisco for the first time a couple years ago around Christmas time. Since this was my first time to the city, I wanted to fit in. So I bought some very snazzy boots and threw on a scarf and I was ready to walk around the big city eating and drinking from one end to the other! We road the BART (the Subway) from Oakland into San Francisco and walked the block or two to our hotel. All was good and I was ready for the famous hot Sourdough bread that I was told was sold on every corner.

After a very crowded and warm ride on a Cable car, (highly over rated if you ask me)I was ready to hoof it and eat. So we hopped off, and started the hike down to the wharf. Many blocks later I had yet to find the mystical sour dough bread, and my spiffy boots were killing my feet! A few more blocks and I no longer cared if I ever found Sourdough bread. I just wanted a pair of sneakers! After hours and hours of walking...that's what it felt like anyway, we found a Payless shoe store, I bough comfy shoes and life was good again! Never did find that corner vendor peddling hot bread and butter, I am beginning to think those don't exist.

Being the romantic that my guy is, he had special plans for me on my first trip to San Francisco. One night he took me to the Mark Hopkins Hotel, and we rode the elevator to the very top, where there is a great bar and restaurant called The Top Of The Mark. The room has huge glass windows all along one wall with awesome views of the bay and the city. We had a bottle of Louis Martini Cabernet and watched the sun set, and my guy presented me with a beautifull bracelet. There I was all dressed up, wearing cheap sneakers and beatifull jewelry having a romantic evening, could it get any better?! On our way out we checked with the Concierge about a good place to eat in the area, someplace the locals would go to. He told us about the Nob Hill Cafe, that was only a couple of blocks away.

This is how we came to discover this fabulous little place. This trip we were determined to visit again to make sure it wasn't a fluke thing. The Nob Hill Cafe does not disappoint! This is a very small and cozy restaurant that serves Antipasti, Pasta and pizza.



The kitchen is along one wall, you pass the stove and pizza oven when you walk through the door. The dining room is about as big as a small living room in someones house. We sat right next to the counter where the cooks put together the dishes, and through the glass separating us from being in the kitchen I could check out the great ingredients that would be going into my dinner.

When first seated we were brought some bread and butter, no warm sourdough, but the bread was so good I didn't care.

Our waitress Elaina helped us pick The Big Tattoo 2007 Red wine from Chile to go with our meal. The wine is 50% Syrah and 50% Cabernet from Cochagua Valley, big and bold just how we like our reds.

As you may know I am a big fan of pasta, and the first time I was here I had the Penne Bettola; garlic and vodka in a tomato cream sauce. That was too die for, and started an obsession with vodka sauces. But it seemed silly to not try something new this trip and I love pizza, golden crust, sauces of all kinds and melted cheese...what is not to love?
So My guy and I decided to split a pizza, with artichoke hearts and mushrooms. Oh my goodness this was heaven, there was no skimping on the cheese or the toppings! And fresh basil sprinkled on top...makes me hungry just thinking about it!

I have been told that San Francisco has some of the best food in the country, and if you are a lover of seafood I am sure that is true. The few times I have been to this city, the one place that sticks out in my mind is the Nob Hill Cafe. Any suggestions for warm sourdough with melty butter or a favorite food spot in San Fran you might have please let me know!