Archive Page 2

13
Mar
10

Mailbag Saturday – starved for water…

Question:

With the recent news of a moth in Napa that likes to snack on Cabernet grapes, I saw a brief mention that Temecula was hit hard by the glassy winged sharpshooter a few years back.  Do you have any insights on the history of that event? Brian, Sacramento

Answer:

“Hit hard” is an understatement. Ravaged is more like it! Pierce’s disease (the name of the virus carried by the Glassy Winged Sharp Shooter) was (and still is) such a scare for the California wine industry that all Temecula grapes were quarantined for many years. The history if this blight is complicated, so I did what any lazy blogger would do, I searched out a very interesting article on the subject. I’m attaching the recent article published in the Riverside Press Enterprise. This article talks about what’s currently happening, the history of Pierce’s disease and what’s currently being done to control/stop it. And people think wine is easy to make… HA!!!

Click here for news link on Glassy Winged Sharp Shooter

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05
Mar
10

Friday, Madonna and Cranium enhancement!


I’m a bad blogger… AGAIN! I guess I need to start drinking and cooking more for added inspiration! But on a positive note, today’s Friday and for most of us this means the end of a busy week. I’m doing something crazy on my Friday night… I’m heading out to an uber swanky bar at 10PM to listen (and presumably view on large video screens) the new Madonna album. I didn’t used to be a big fan of hers, but I’ve come to truly love her music. Plus she’s older than me by one year, and looks fantastic… inspiration enough to love her if you ask me. How this relates to food or wine, or living well is beyond me. But in honor of my mission, here goes. Madonna, like any true artist who’s stood the test of time, tends to conjure up a time and place with each song archived in our cranium. Generally these times and places involve some sort of eating or imbibing. Take tonight for example, when I look back on this and hear a song from this album that connected for me, it will also take me back to the event. Probably how I felt at the time, what I looked like, who I was with, and what I ate and drank.

To this day, when I hear Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, I think of the time I was sitting in my first car – a 1975 Plymouth Fury painted baby puke yellow that I referred to it as my golden fury. I was in the parking lot of a small dysfunctional pentecostal church , resisting the pressure to come inside and join the motley choir of 10 faithful church members. The song blasted on my 8 track player…. hmmm, must have been around 1977, or 78, and it was summer. Every time I hear that song it takes me right back to that moment in time – and for the record, I was eating a large order of Tastee Freeze fries with a shake; my friend Tim was in the car with me, also resisting the pressure to sing in the choir – and his mom was the choir director!

I bet you have a similar story. Maybe it’s time for a new one. Maybe you’ll find the time to live well tonight. Maybe you’ll go, hear a song from a favorite artist and connect it to the moment. Maybe it will be a source of fond memories for you for many years to come. Let me know how yours turns out, I’ll let you know about mine too!

27
Feb
10

Gnocchi!!!

I promised and here it is! It’s not my recipe, but it’s truly the BEST recipe for gnocchi I’ve found! The recipe is from the Tre Vigne cookbook. It’s written by Michael Chiarello. His method is what makes this special… baking the potatoes rather than boiling so their glutens aren’t as pronounced making a very light and fluffy gnocchi. These delectable little darlings are often called Angel Pillows, and this recipe truly supports that image; they are super easy to make. When I make them, I do the roll out, cut them into bite sized pieces and then simply press a dimple in the middle of each one – this works just as well as the fork roll, and is much faster.

Once you get the hang of it, trying experimenting with enhanced versions – use sweet potatoes (I’d suggest half sweet and half regular since sweet potatoes are more dense). Add some fresh herbs to the dough for extra zing. Gnocchis traditionally hail from Northern Italy. The Northern Italian cuisine is more influenced by the Swiss and Germans than the rest of Italy – more cream, butter, less olive oil, etc. So, in keeping with this, try simple cream based sauces, or browned butter and sage with Parmigiano-Reggiano as a finish… GET CREATIVE!!!

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound russet potatoes
  • 3 to 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon gray salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting board and dough

Method:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Spread a layer of kosher salt on a baking sheet and arrange the potatoes on top. Bake until a bit overcooked, about 45 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle, cut in half, and scoop out the flesh. Reserve the potato skins, if desired, for another use.

Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them on the large holes of a box grater. You should have about 2 cups. Make a mound of potatoes on the counter with a well in the middle, add 3 of the egg yolks, the cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Mix in the potatoes and mix well with hands. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour over the potatoes and, using your knuckles, press it into the potatoes. Fold the mass over on itself and press down again. Sprinkle on more flour, little by little, folding and pressing the dough until it just holds together, (try not to knead it.) Work any dough clinging to your fingers back into the dough. If the mixture is too dry, add another egg yolk or a little water. The dough should give under slight pressure. It will feel firm but yielding. To test if the dough is the correct consistency, take a piece and roll it with your hands on a well-floured board into a rope 1/2-inch in diameter. If the dough holds together, it is ready. If not, add more flour, fold and press the dough several more times, and test again.

Keeping your work surface and the dough lightly floured, cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces. Lightly flour the gnocchi as you cut them. You can cook these as is or form them into the classic gnocchi shape with a gnocchi board, ridged butter paddle, or the tines of a large fork turned upside down. Rest the bottom edge of the gnocchi board on the work surface, then tilt it at about a 45 degree angle. Take each piece and squish it lightly with your thumb against the board while simultaneously pushing it away from you. It will roll away and around your thumb, taking on a cupped shape — with ridges on the outer curve from the board and a smooth surface on the inner curve where your thumb was. (Shaping them takes some time and dexterity. You might make a batch just for practice.) The indentation holds the sauce and helps gnocchi cook faster.

As you shape the gnocchi, dust them lightly with flour and scatter them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or waxed paper. Set gnocchi filled cookie sheet in front of a fan on low for 1/2 hour (turning gnocchi after 15 minutes). If you will not cook the gnocchi until the next day or later, freeze them. Alternatively, you can poach them now, drain and toss with a little olive oil, let cool, then refrigerate several hours or overnight. To reheat, dip in hot water for 10 to 15 seconds, then toss with browned butter until hot.

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Drop in the gnocchi and cook for about 90 seconds from the time they rise to the surface. Remove the cooked gnocchi with a skimmer, shake off the excess water, and serve as desired.

Cook’s Note: Baking potatoes on a layer of salt allows heat to circulate 360 degrees. Scrape the salt into a jar and reuse it again and again. If you do not have time to shape the gnocchi, you can freeze the dough, defrost it in the refrigerator, and then shape it. To freeze shaped gnocchi, line baking sheets with waxed paper and dust with flour. Spread the gnocchi on the prepared sheets and freeze until hard. Remove to individual-portion-size freezer bags. Store in the freezer for up to 1 month. To cook, drop the frozen gnocchi into boiling salted water. Cook for about 2 minutes after they rise to the surface.

27
Feb
10

I’m BAD!!! And I’m Glad…

Today is supposed to be about gnocchi, but I’ve been running around like a silly man all day in a new toy! So, I guess you could say, today is about living well.

I could have foregone my fun, and buckled down, typed in my recipe, uploaded the amazing photo Jake Sutter took, and viola – a gnocchi blog done! But instead, I’ve lived well, shrugged off my gnocchi promise. It’s next I promise.

We all (I’m talking to you) need to do this from time to time. We need to climb into an adorable, super fun new convertible, put the top down and cruise all over town… no, let me rephrase that “zip furiously all over town”. We need to tear up the streets, looking for that elusive corner to scream around at crazy high speeds, and squeal in the thrill of it! Of course, this has to be done with rain spitting on us in the open air,  threatening a deluge at any moment. We also need to care less if everyone sharing the road sees us as a stereotype! Stormy day, cold wind, brand new car, top down, driving like it’s an Indy 500 course!

Go ahead, life is too short, what are you waiting for! Let me know what you shrugged off today, it’ll help me feel less guilty… OH, WAIT – I don’t feel guilty, and neither should you!!!

23
Feb
10

Homage to the home picnic

Some people say they eat to feed their bodies, others their souls! I fall solidly in the latter camp! You can offer me the most wonderful food, but if it isn’t about the moment, occasion, and isn’t presented in its best light, I will probably not remember it beyond the time it took to consume. But if you take the simplest and most ordinary food, and present it on your best dishes, or arrange it to be viewed as well as eaten, then I’m probably going to have an enhanced culinary experience all around, and will probably remember it far longer than the more exceptional food poorly presented.

If I had my way, I’d make my life mission one that encourages people to slow down, and live in the moment they are given; to try and glean soul nourishment from each occasion. How you present and eat your food is no exception. With that in mind, I encourage each and everyone of you to do a home picnic this week. Stop at your market, pick up tasty little things you like – some cheese, some cold-cuts, some bread and/or crackers, some fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, olives, of course a bottle of wine (maybe even an inexpensive sparkling wine and some potato chips!!!)… you get the picture. Bring it all home, take 20 minutes to create an event out of it, and enjoy! You’ll be amazed at how such a simple thing can be so transcendent!

Let me know how yours turns out!!!

20
Feb
10

Liquid nirvana with a touch of white pepper… oh and some prawns too

I’m a huge advocate for different and interesting wines. I love it when people bust out of the ordinary for the extraordinary! One of my favorite white wines is Albariño. Albariño is Spain’s most popular white wine, and is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most loved white wines, and qualifies in my wine lexicon as extraordinary! It is a bright crisp, aromatic style wine with peaches and apricots being the typical fruit characteristics. It also has a touch of white pepper, usually found in the mid-palate. This delicious wine is considered to be just about the most perfect pairing for shellfish! So I’m suggesting you go to your local wine store, buy a bottle or two, stop at your local market, pick up some nice prawns, head home to make the extremely simple cocktail sauce I’ve included and have your self a little Albariño and shrimp cocktail celebration this weekend!!!

Cocktail Sauce

  • 1 cup organic ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons pure prepared horseradish (you can use the creamed that’s all that available)
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh tarragon – minced (this adds a wow factor to the sauce)
  • Lemon Juice to taste

Method:

Blend the horseradish, fresh tarragon and lemon juice into the ketchup and adjust ingredients based on your preference. I suggest you make this and let it chill for about an hour before serving to allow the flavors to open up and harmonize.

17
Feb
10

Mailbag Wednesday – is 9 the new 10?

Question: OK, this is more of an etiquette question rather than a food question.  If a restaurant advertises their dinner hours, say something like 5pm to 10pm, what exactly does the 10pm represent?  Does that mean that they stop making food at 10pm, will happily seat you if you walk in at 10pm, or they will seat you but might do “questionable” things to the food that they serve you because they are ready to go home? Brian, Sacramento

Answer: This is a classic question! Technically if a restaurant posts open hours until 10pm, you should be able to arrive just before 10, be seated, served, and welcomed to stay until your meal experience is complete. That being said… HA HA HA!!! I actually did a google search on this question and came up with multiple hits – Waiters ranting about late comers, owners lamenting controlling costs beyond a normal shift, kitchens needing to close down at some point, etc. My normal practice in late dining moments is to get a read on the restaurant. If it’s still busy and feels active, you’re probably safe to stay. If it’s quiet and the staff seems like they’re closing up shop, probably not such a good idea. If the restaurant has a busy bar, sometimes the bar offers a more limited late night menu – it’s best to engage your better judgment, you can always ask what the kitchen schedule is, and often times the service staff will tell you that the kitchen just closed, or certain items are no longer available, etc. And yes, I’ve heard horror stories about the service and kitchen staff who are handling your food not being completely above board because they’re irritated with you for coming in late. On that note, I’d suggest you never irritate a fast food worker!!!

I’d love it if all ya’ll would weigh in with your experiences with this???




Patrick Bartlett


A conversation about food, wine, and the art of living well!

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