RSS Feed

Category Archives: Anderson Valley

Local Innovation at The Bewildered Pig

Posted on

Last week I traveled to Mendocino with Canuck for an early birthday celebration! He let me do the majority of the planning – including two breweries (no, I don’t just drink wine) – but did suggest a dinner spot in Philo for our first night of the trip: The Bewildered Pig. I trust Canuck’s picks, especially when it comes to food, and after checking out their menu and hearing that his friend from culinary school is the sous chef, I got pretty excited about this place.

The Bewildered Pig is the brainchild of Chef Janelle Weaver and her partner, Daniel. After spending several years as an executive chef at a prestigious Napa winery, Janelle ventured out on her own culinary endeavor with the goal to create an unpretentious restaurant with a large focus on farm to fork, sourcing everything locally (their pigs come from down the street) and from their own gardens. The dishes are elegant yet casual, refined yet rustic, sophisticated yet simple; dualities that I learned Janelle possesses herself after chatting with her throughout the course of the night.

IMG_6028

The wine list is a combination of selections from Anderson Valley and Sonoma County and an extensive list of Old World favorites. Keeping with the local theme, I selected the 2014 Balo “Suitcase 828” Estate Pinot Noir. The wine was more feminine on the nose, with aromas of white flowers, bright red fruit and an element of freshness. But the palate was bold and earthy, reflecting more of a masculine tone. One of the things I love most about Pinot Noir (especially Pinots from Anderson Valley) is how androgynous it can be, which makes it a versatile wine for food pairings. Sure enough, it paired perfectly with nearly everything that we ate.

IMG_6029

IMG_6030

We started off the evening with a delectable amuse-bouche from the kitchen: Penny Royal Laychee Crostini with a Pea & Fava Pistou. (Side note: Penny Royal is a local farm and creamery that offers tours and tastings Thursday through Monday in their new shop on Hwy 128. They make a variety of cheeses that are also available at one of my favorite Philo wineries, Navarro Vineyards.) Our delicious cheesy bite was followed by a house made Mendocino County Heritage Pork country pâté with Dijon mustard and shallot chutney – the perfect combination of salty, sweet and spicy.

IMG_5870

FullSizeRender_1

On to the vegetables. Canuck selected “Celebration of Carrots” and I chose an assortment of seasoned radishes with salt and butter. The radishes were simple yet so satisfying, and it felt good to eat some raw vegetables after an afternoon of beer tasting (be sure to stop in Anderson Valley Brewery on your way into Philo). The carrot plate was indeed a celebration and quite possibly the best vegetable dish I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. The plate is composed of a seven different uses and varieties of carrots: confit tiny Thumbelina and French, pickled rainbow, housemade carrot crackers, fried carrot fronds, carrot top pesto and garlic aioli. I talked about this dish to anyone who would listen for several days. I’m still holding out hope that Canuck will find a way to recreate it…

And as if those were not enough starters, we picked two more to share: smoked local black cod potato salad, and Gulf prawns with garlic lemon aioli and what Janelle and her team affectionately call “fluff,” an array of herbs, flowers and stuff. The cod is local (Princess Seafood out of Fort Bragg) and smoked by Angelo’s in Sonoma. It’s served with heirloom potatoes, confited in olive oil, and fresh shaved Petit Teton horseradish, bloomed mustard seeds, whipped crème fraîche, herbs, watercress… and probably a few other amazing things that I am missing. Not only was it beautifully presented (like all of the evening’s dishes), but the combination of flavors was beautiful to eat.

FullSizeRender

Last but not least, we each ordered the Lamb Duo (despite the fact that Canuck usually prefers not to order the same thing as his dining partner). It was written on the menu with all of my favorite Spring things so it was impossible to resist. In hindsight, we agreed that it easily could have been shared considering the amount of food we had leading up to our entrées, but we still managed to finish the majority of our dishes. The Lamb Duo was composed of lamb loin and confit cap, sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi, fresh tarragon, chives, lemon zest, fava beans, asparagus, fava leaf and garlic puree, served with a lamb anise hyssop reduction. I never imagined that all of these things could exist so cohesively on one plate, but it was near perfection.

IMG_6026

If you don’t already have enough reasons to visit Anderson Valley – the plethora of unique and inexpensive wineries, fishing along the Redwood lined highway, bountiful farms and orchards, whimsical seaside villages, adorable inns and a brewery in a town with their own made up language – add this dining experience to the list. The Bewildered Pig is truly a destination restaurant, worth every mile traveled, and I intend to make it a regular pilgrimage. In fact, I can’t wait to go back and see what other seasonal items they have on their fantastic menu.

Big thanks to Janelle, Izzy and the entire team for such a memorable evening!

Surf-n-Turf

Posted on

I’m coming off of a glorious beach vacation in my favorite San Diego community: Carlsbad. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my family spends a week on the Carlsbad beach every summer; drinking wine, playing in the surf, and spending time with family and friends. Due to poor timing (and my brother’s start of graduate school – yay!), we will not be going this summer. So I was more than thrilled to learn that my good friend – who shall be known as Malo from this point forth – has a family home on the beach in Carlsbad, just a 15 minute walk from where my family stays!

View from the house

View from inside the beach house

Malo at her beach house

Malo, excited to enjoy the beach!

Malo graciously invited a group of our friends to stay at the beach house over this past holiday weekend. Many of our friends already had travel plans, so it ended up being a small group: Malo, GGD, J³, Whitey and myself. We spent our days lounging on the beach while sipping Rosé and taking breaks to boogie board in the surf and walk on the beach. We shipped down 18 bottles of wine for three days and four nights; a combination of light whites and Rosé for the beach, and Cab, Zin and Pinot to pair with dinners – all pulled from our individual collections. Some of my contributions included a 2007 Etude Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Handley Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Malo’s father also provided 6 of his favorite red wines from his private collection, which he shared with us on Saturday evening when he and Malo’s mother conducted a special wine tasting! Also joining us that night was Whitey’s sister and brother-in-law and their adorable three-year-old daughter.

We planned out all the meals in advance so we wouldn’t be stuck with too many groceries, and I volunteered to make the meal for Saturday night. Inspired by the beautiful beach setting and as a way to appeal to a large group (including one pregnant woman and one pescatarian) I chose to prepare Surf and Turf tacos! Along with my spicy slaw and GGD’s avocado-mango salad, I grilled skirt steaks and shrimp (with a little help from Whitey’s brother-in-law). The steak marinade is a recipe that has been passed down to me by my mother, who got it from my father’s late co-worker, Poco. I wouldn’t eat skirt steak any other way! As for the shrimp, that was sort of an experiment but I must say they turned out very well!

SURF

  • 8 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 bags of frozen large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 32 shrimp), thawed
  • 4-5 skewers for grilling

TURF

  • 1/2 cup pickled jalapeños with the juice (about 2 small cans)
  • 3/4 cup lime juice
  • 3/4 cup worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 TB cumin
  • 2 lb skirt steak
marinated shrimp on the skewers

marinated shrimp on the skewers

Skirt steak on the grill

Skirt steak on the grill

For the skirt steak, mix together first six ingredients and pour over steak in a sealed plastic container. Marinade at least over night and up to three days. Bring to room temperature about 45 minutes before grilling. Grill for about 4 minutes on each side, then let rest for a few minutes on a wooden cutting board. When ready to serve, cut against the grain on a diagonal and transfer slices of meat to a platter.

As for the shrimp, combine and whisk together the first six ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over shrimp into a plastic freezer bag and refrigerate for about an hour. Place shrimp on metal skewers and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until opaque. Transfer to a platter and serve.

steak

Perfection!

Perfection!

This meal served nine hungry adults, and we didn’t have any leftovers (except for some slaw because I made way too much). Serve with corn tortillas and sides of cilantro, queso fresco, salsa, radish, and lime wedges. Yum!

Malo’s father served some delicious wines from Sonoma, Colombia Valley and Paso Robles, but the two that stood out to me particularly were the 2010 Sonoma County “Three Birds” Red Wine and the Force Majeure 2009 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Collaboration Series VI Red Blend. The Three Birds was full-bodied with soft, round fruit and earth tones; easy drinking but still enough body to stand up to a spicy steak. The Force Majeure, which was enjoyed after the meal, was silky while robust with sweet aromas and a lush mouthfeel. Both wines were spectacular, but maybe a bit too bold to pair with a meal like this. I would suggest serving the Surf-n-Turf with a selection of Albariño or Rosé for the shrimp, and Syrah or another Rhone blend for the steak. You could also pair with some bubbly, as it goes well with almost everything!

Special thanks to Malo and her parents for sharing their beautiful beachy home and some stellar wines! I can only hope to return your generosity some day… maybe at a vineyard house 🙂

Best. Salad. Ever.

Posted on

KDD and I were wandering through the Fillmore Farmer’s Market this past weekend, and happened upon an Alaskan Smoked Salmon stand. After trying a few samples, I was convinced to purchase a fillet of their classic smoked salmon for $12.00, while KDD picked up a fillet of the lemon pepper variety. I immediately decided I would serve this salmon over some type of mixed greens, and invited my friend – who shall be known as Westy from this point forth – to join me for dinner that night. The salad only takes about twenty minutes to prepare, so this is the perfect meal to throw together while catching up with a friend.

Smoked Salmon with Kale, Arugula and Lemon Dill Vinaigrette (serves 2-3)

  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1 cup Dino kale, choppedsalad ingredients
  • 1/2 cup shelled edamame
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, sliced and quartered
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup chives, diced
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • 8 oz smoked Alaskan salmon (not lox), broken into bite size pieces

Lemon Dill Vinaigrette (makes 1/2 cup)

  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 TB dill
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of granulated sugar
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 3 TB vegetable oil

Put eggs into a 1-quart saucepan, then add enough cold water to cover them by 1/2 inch. Bring water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to moderately high and cook eggs at a gentle boil, uncovered, 10 minutes. Pour off hot water. Shake pan gently so eggs bump into one another (to crack shells), then peel. If shells are too hot, run under cool water for a minute.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. In a mini food processor, combine lemon zest and juice, dill, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar. With the motor running, add oils in a slow, steady drip. Taste for seasoning, then transfer to a container.

Assemble the salad: in a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the dressing. Add dressing around the inside edge of the salad bowl, then toss to combine. Serve in shallow bowls.

photo 4

Westy and I were craving Rosé on this sunny evening, so I paired this dish with 2012 Navarro Rosé of Pinot Noir – my favorite! This salad is a natural pairing for Rosé, but would also work well with Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris – something light and citrusy.

The Rosé was delicious, but the salad was exquisite. Every ingredient worked together harmoniously, with the lemon dill vinaigrette bringing it all together. I particularly enjoyed the edamame and hard-boiled eggs, but the salmon was the true star of the dish – as intended. Westy and I both had seconds, and I even let KDD get in on the action. When I finished eating, I was already thinking about the next time I could make this salad. And I’m still thinking about it.

MacPhail Knows Pinot

Posted on

One of my favorite visits during the Morrison Family Wine Weekend was to a spot I hadn’t been to before, but came highly recommended to me by the folks at Barrique (perhaps because their brother is assistant winemaker William Weese). MacPhail Family Wines is tucked back along a dirt road off of Westside Road in Healdsburg, and they host groups of up to 12 people by appointment only for $20 per person.

MacPhail

My parents and I had a 1pm appointment but were running a little late because our tasting and tour at Ridge went over two hours (no complaints!). I called Lauren in the tasting room to let her know we were running a bit behind schedule, and she nicely said it was not a problem and she would see us soon. (Take note, dear readers. If you’re going to be running late to an appointment, even just 10 minutes, always call in advance to let them know.)

mom and dog

My mom was thrilled to see a winery dog on the premise when we arrived – a friendly Bernese mountain dog named Zuni. As my mom played with the dog and my father looked at the wines, the tasting room manager showed me the plans for the new tasting room at The Barlow in Sebastopol. After a few minutes, Lauren led us over to the tasting table, surrounded by fermentation tanks and barrels of wine.

Tasting room plans for Sebastopol.

Tasting room plans for Sebastopol.

We started off with the 2012 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast, a creamy yet fruitful wine with hints of honey and green apple – a great balance of oak and fruit.  Next was their 2012 Rose of Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, which was simply sublime. The strawberry fruit flavors mingled with the acid perfectly, making for a dry Rose that would go perfectly with spicy Asian food – or by itself! Immediately my parents suggested buying three bottles – two to be paired with our Saturday night dinner at B*Star, and one for keeps. They’ve since moved on to their 2013 vintage, and I can imagine it will taste just as amazing!

rose

Onto the reds… Lauren poured us four side-by-side glasses of a selection of their Pinot Noir: 2012 Wightman House Vineyard Anderson Valley, 2011 Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley2011 Gap’s Crown Sonoma Coast, , and 2011 Rita’s Crown Santa Rita Hills. All the wines were great, but my personal two favorites were the Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley and Rita’s Crown Santa Rita Hills. I loved the ripeness of the Dutton Ranch, while the Rita’s Crown was very unique with it’s flavors of cola, tart cherry and a bit of licorice.

Pinot Noir line up.

Pinot Noir line up.

Lauren served the wines left to right in the order above, which also happens to be from North to South in terms of the vineyard locations. This was a great way to taste through the wines because it really showcased the range of terroir that the winery is utilizing. For example, Russian River Valley is known for blackberry-like, ripe Pinot Noirs; in part due to the fog layer that blankets the valley, as well as the cool ocean breeze coming over the Sonoma Mountains. The Santa Rita Hills in the Santa Ynez Valley (Santa Barbara county) are also affected by fog and cool breeze, but the soil is more rocky and the elevation is higher so the wines that come from here have more layers and natural acidity.

MacPhail had several other Pinots from various vineyards in Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, and even Oregon. We only tried the four, but I look forward to tasting some more of their excellent wines when their tasting room opens at The Barlow. Until then, be sure to make an appointment at their Healdsburg tasting room. This is a great small, family-owned winery and the customer service is exceptional – and so is the Pinot Noir!

Pizza in Philo: Stone and Embers

Posted on

A few months ago, Starry forwarded me an article that SF Gate posted about a new pizza joint in Philo called Stone and Embers. Without knowing much about it, we decided this would be the perfect place to dine after a day of wine tasting. So after hitting up our seventh and final stop, we drove less than a mile North to The Madrones where Stone and Embers is located. We had already taken a peek at the place when we were at The Madrones a couple hours earlier making a quick stop at Knez Winery, a modern tasting room that serves up some delicious Pinot Noir from several distinctive vineyards. Perhaps it was because we had high expectations, or maybe it was the lackluster service (only two waitresses for about 40 dinner guests), but the dining experience was less than perfect.

My new favorite Belgian!

My new favorite Belgian!

After a day of Pinot Noir, we couldn’t wait to take down a couple of beers. I opted for North Coast Brewery’s Prankster Belgian Style Golden Ale while Starry selected a Russian River IPA. After about 15 minutes of waiting and chatting with our nearby dining neighbors, a waitress finally came over and took our order. Starry and I decided to share the mushroom “chicharrones” with parmesan and porcini salt, the roasted bone marrow with toasted country levain and roasted garlic, and the The Jeffer Pizza with tomato sauce, house made turducken, smoked mozzarella, chilies and parmesan. The waitress didn’t initially write down the order, nor did she when she came back a second time to retake the order because she had forgotten. Starry got a little worried that she was going to mistake our Jeffer for Jefferson (another similarly named vegetarian pizza on the menu) since she didn’t actually write down anything. Sure enough, when Starry went to confirm that she got the order correct, the waitress told the chef “they actually want The Jeffer pizza, not Jefferson”, as though it was somehow our mistake.

Mushroom "chicarrones"

Mushroom “chicharrones”

Fortunately, the mushroom chicharrones were pretty unique and made for a good snack while we waited for the rest of our meal (though, the name was confusing because they didn’t have the chewy texture that true chicharrones have). Our bone marrow arrived shortly after, which was tasty but poorly executed. The bones were too hot to touch, and they didn’t serve it with any little spoons to scoop out the marrow so it was somewhat difficult to enjoy. Starry even had burn marks on her finger tips the next day!

Ouch!

Too hot to handle.

Our pizza finally came, and while the toppings – especially the house made turducken – were fresh and delicious, the crust wasn’t nearly as thin as we were expecting. And for a place that spent six months perfecting the dough before opening, and that charges nearly $20 for a 10-inch pizza, we expected a little more. We decided to pack up the rest of the pizza and head back to our cabin so we could enjoy it with some 2011 Navarro Shiraz and Pennyroyal Laychee Goat Cheese.

The Jeffer

The Jeffer

All and all, the food was good and while the service was very friendly, they made a few missteps that can be chalked up to new restaurant jitters. And if you’re craving California-style pizza in Anderson Valley, this is certainly the place to go. But next time we will make a reservation at the buzzed about Coq Au Vin, where Starry can practice her French with the owner!

The Husch Experience

Posted on

I’m still dreaming about being back in Comptche, warming my toes in front of the fire and sipping on a 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir – my favorite varietal right now. Starry had never been to Anderson Valley before and I had been once in June 2009, so I thought it would be cool to repeat my original Anderson Valley Winetinery, adding in a couple new stops as well. We packed as many wineries into Saturday that we could handle, beginning the day of tasting with one of my favorites: Husch Vineyards.

The tasting room at Husch

The tasting room at Husch

Husch is one of the oldest wineries in Anderson Valley, and the tasting room building is 110 years old! There are guesses as to what its purpose was before the winery existed: a pony barn, grain storage, chicken coop. Whatever it was, I’m glad Tony Husch had the brilliant idea to make a winery out of the property! In 1979, Husch Vineyards was sold to Hugo Oswald Jr., and the winery is still owned by the third generation of Oswalds. A few years ago, Husch bottled a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah and called the wine Grand Oz. I got to taste the 2009 Grand Oz (second vintage) this past weekend, which is only available in the tasting room with a 2 bottle limit per person. Grand Oz is smooth and delicious, with bright fruit and a hint of spice. I was tempted to purchase a bottle, but I didn’t want to blow my budget at the first stop!

The wall of awards

The wall of awards

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Starry and I were led by Mike as we each tasted six different wines from the current selection at Husch (of which there are 16). Mike had been working in the tasting room for about six years, and before that he was launching rockets at Cape Canaveral! He even launched one of the missions to Mars, and got a little nostalgic when recounting to us his days at the Cape. I love the attention that you get from the host at small wineries like this, and I also love to taste the wines that are only available in the tasting room. So I opted for a diverse selection of winery exclusives, including: 2012 Renegade Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino, 2012 T-Bud Dry Cuvee Gewürztraminer Anderson Valley, 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir Anderson Valley, 2010 Knoll Pinot Noir Anderson Valley, 2010 Syrah Mendocino and of course, the 2009 Grand Oz Mendocino.

selection at Husch

While Starry and I both really enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc, my favorite of the whites was most certainly the T-Bud; slightly sweet with hints of pear and grapefruit on the nose and a refreshing palate of citrus and baking spice. I also had a sip of Starry’s 2012 Vine One Chardonnay Mendocino, which was light and delicate with floral aromatics and fermented mostly in stainless steel tanks. I would later learn that much of Anderson Valley white wine is fermented in stainless steel with just a touch of oak. I think this is because the Anderson Valley white varietals are mostly cool climate grapes, such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Blanc. These grapes are more delicate and bright, and possess zesty and somewhat tropical flavors so an overabundance of oak in the fermentation process would clash with the natural flavors in the wine.

The Gewurz vines outside the Husch tasting room.

The Gewurz vines outside the Husch tasting room.

As for my red selections, I was very pleased and particularly enjoyed the 91 point (Wine Enthusiast) 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir. The wine had complex aromas of toast and black cherry, with a soft yet full palate. For only $38 (not including my industry discount), I couldn’t resist buying a bottle! I also enjoyed the 2010 Knoll Pinot Noir, a historically significant wine because it was the first planting of Pinot Noir in the Anderson Valley. The wine had a lot of body and complexity, with hints of cloves on the nose and a soft, velvety finish in the mouth. Of course, neither of these compared to the Grand Oz, which simply blew me away.

Grand Oz

Mike was pleased to tell us that they had sold out of their innaugural 2008 vintage of the Grand Oz, a vintage that all wineries in Anderson Valley struggled with due to the forest fires. We had heard that some wineries tried to profit off the unique smoky flavor, claiming that it was a piece of history and created an interesting tasting Pinot Noir. While this may be true in some sense, Starry and I knew better than to be duped by this marketing twist. We did manage to taste some 2008 Pinot from other wineries throughout the weekend. While most we found to be undrinkable – with one even smelling like gasoline – we hardly noticed the smoke in a 2008 Pinot Noir from Breggo. This probably had something to do with the reverse osmosis truck that they used during production.

Husch Vineyards proved to be the perfect start to our weekend, and Mike’s in-depth account of the winery’s background and the history of the valley made the experience all the more special. This tasting also launched my new obsession with 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir – which I’m told is one of the best years in the region for growing Pinot. Thank goodness the bottle prices in Anderson Valley are more than reasonable; not to mention that the majority of the wineries offer free tastings to the public! The wine nerd in me has never been so happy to live in Northern California.

Candid with a Corkscrew

A Sommelier's Misadventures Abroad

Fit Brit

Fitness & Life Chronicals

shady morels

honest food

thewinelifestyle

So close to wine

Homemade with Mess

who wants life to be tidy when you can have more fun making a mess??!

marina girl eats

Technical Cooking Skills for an Unconventional Cooking Life

The Crafty Cook Nook

Preserving Food, Stories, and Place

Lacy Travels

Feed Your Travel & Inspiration Bug

What's in the glass tonight

I love New Zealand wine

Linda in the Kitchen

seasonal eats & healthy treats, made with Love.

Winelandia

Natural & organic wine in the San Francisco Bay Area

That Great Little Spot

discoveries of the millennial traveler: a writer, photographer, beach bum, adventure junkie and street food connoisseur

fromditchplainstolevanto

favorites from around the globe

The Wine Wankers

G’day, you’re at the best wine blog ever! We're all about wine; without the wankery.