Rhône Blend White Wines are a Dream to Pair with Foods

Fried Goat Cheese, Butter Lettuce Cups, Green Apple, Almonds, Sweet Meyer Lemon Cream

Fried Goat Cheese
Butter Lettuce, Green Apple, Almond, Borage
Sweet Meyer Lemon Cream with Cardamom

paired with

Le Cigar Blanc 2012
Bonny Doon Vineyard
Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, California


Grocery Outlet’s
Spring Wine Sale

Rhône Blend white wines are a dream to pair with foods. Who can resist the tempting flavors of peaches, apricots, ripe pears, sweet spices and honey, or the seductive aromas of honeysuckle and tropical fruits? White wines from France’s Rhône tend to have these characteristics. Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, and to a lesser extent Picpoul Blanc – are the dominant varietals in the region. Many of the wines tend toward a creaminess that is rich but not heavy, with a refreshing acidity, and a pleasing minerality and nuttiness.

California Winemaker Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Vineyards has been a tireless champion of the grapes of the Rhône for decades. It is difficult to resist his stylish wines as well as his quirky sense of humor. This wine, Le Cigare Blanc (The White Cigar) is named after his flagship, Le Cigar Volant (The Flying Cigar), so-called in honor of the cigar-shaped flying saucer banned by decree of the village council of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It’s a true story,  in 1954 the mayor and the council voted to ban alien craft from the airspace of their hamlet in order to protect their precious crops.

The 2012 vintage of Le Cigar Blanc is made of 48% Grenache Blanc, 44% Roussanne, and 8% Picpoul Blanc. The Grenache Blanc adds notes of green apple and lemon-lime citrus. The Roussanne brings honeyed notes with a rich mouthfeel and nutty aromas. These characteristics are highlighted and elevated by this salad’s rich goat cheese, sweet/tart meyer lemon cream with a hint of warm cardamom spice, allumettes of green apple, and lightly toasted almonds. Soft butter lettuce, creamy cheese with a toasty panko breadcrumb crust, and crisp Granny Smiths add contrasting textures.

This goat cheese salad and Rhône blend make a quite dreamy pair.

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Food & Wine Pairing: Ahi and Pinot Noir

Food & Wine Pairing: Ahi and Pinot Noir

Pan-Seared Ahi Tuna
Lavender-Scented Soy Butter Sauce with Thyme
Lentil Pomegranate Arugula Salad

paired with

Paraiso Pinot Noir
Santa Lucia Highlands 2011


Grocery Outlet’s
Spring Wine Sale

The culinary confluence of the first days of Spring in my garden, the mind-boggling wine sale at Grocery Outlet, and irresistible fillets of fresh ahi tuna from my favorite fishmonger – all meld together into a beautiful synergistic seasonal main course.

Pinot Noir is eminently food friendly due to the elegant balance of fruit, acidity, and light tannins. Fruitier versions make a great match with salmon and tuna. Black cherry, pomegranate, and cranberry flavors with hints of spice, smoke, and toasty oak in Paraiso Pinot Noir pair beautifully with fresh-caught yellowfin tuna.

The marriage is a mutually advantageous conjunction revealing deeper layers of flavor for both the dish and the wine. Earthy lentils and peppery arugula reflect those same flavors in the wine. Pomegranate arils mirror those fruit flavors, adding a touch of fruitiness without being too sweet. In the sauce – soy brings salty and umami flavors while butter adds nutty flavor and unctuous mouth-feel. The well-loved fragrance of lavender adds more than a just a scent but also an unexpected burst of flavor that heightens the wine profile. Thyme and black pepper elevate the underlying nuances of this Pinot Noir. The dish is a relaxed, natural presentation of a pristine fillet of fish paired with a delightful bottle of wine, all in the celebration of Springtime.

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Gracious Italian Hospitality, A Most Memorable Meal

spinach agnolotti at michael's on naples ristorante, long beach


I write this post for my friends and readers in the Greater Los Angeles Area aka The Southland, all 17 million of you. And also for those who plan to visit LA or the OC anytime soon. Wherever you find yourself in this great basin of 34,000 square miles, I promise that a trip to Long Beach, or more specifically the charming neighborhood called Naples (a little island in Alamitos Bay) for a dinner at Michael’s on Naples Ristorante is well worth the drive.

Leave the food and wine choices to Executive Chef David Coleman and General Manager Massimo Aronne, as we did, and you will enjoy an Italian dining adventure like no other…Massimo’s expert wine knowledge paired with Chef Coleman’s gifted approach to Italian cooking will refresh your appetite for Italian cuisine.

The dining experience here is not only about the food, or the wine, the service or  the atmosphere – it is the synergy of all these elements. At Michael’s we feel as if we are guests in his home. The staff is professional, artfully trained yet simultaneously warm and friendly. Massimo is not only a master of Italian wine, but is generous with his knowledge and happy to share his passion. Chef Coleman’s cooking is bright and creative, while still respectful of the traditional Italian kitchen. And Michael is that ultimate gracious Italian host.

For my friends who won’t be visiting The Southland in the near future, I hope you take a look at, and gain inspiration from, Chef Coleman’s dishes – a true treat to Taste With The Eyes.

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Beef Short Ribs with Poblanos

Poblano Chiles Charred on the Grill

Cover the hot charred poblanos with a kitchen towel and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove the skin and seeds, slice into strips. Set aside.

The short ribs are browned in my Le Creuset French Oven, then removed from the pan.  Sliced onion is cooked until golden, then add finely chopped garlic. Chopped tomatoes are added, cook for about 3 minutes more. The sliced poblanos, browned short ribs, plus salt and epazote are all nestled into the pan, covered,  and braised at 325°F for about 1 1/2 hours.

The epazote gives this dish its traditional Mexican flavor. I have fallen in love with this herb and its intriguing aroma reminiscent of kerosene. This fabulous dish is the creation of Chef Rick Bayless. The detailed recipe can be found here.

I made this dish for my brother Bill. Knowing I was preparing a meat dish with Mexican origins, he stopped at the wine shop on his way over. The Bellum El Principio 2005 was one of two excellent recommendations. This is a Spanish wine made from 100% monastrell old vines. A complex and earthy wine, somewhat spicy, with a mixed berry fruit character, powerful yet smooth. The name “Bellum” comes from a local prehistoric cave painting. Perfect pairing with Beef Short Ribs and Poblanos! Thanks Billy.
We enjoyed this dish with white rice and Christmas Lima beans. I sent Bill home with some leftovers and when we talked later in the week, we both agreed that this dish was even better the next day! I’ve long been a fan of Rick Bayless and his restaurants in Chicago – Frontera Grill and Topolobambo. ¡Muchas Gracias RB!