Monday, March 29, 2010

Dog Friendly Wineries: Mutt Lynch Winery.

Sometimes I like to show up, my whole-self wearing whatever is comfortable, and with my dog too. Not long ago we had one of those weekends, the week was so kinetic that we found ourselves on a Saturday morning without anything planned. We wanted to hang together, but didn't want to vegetate at home.

Welcome my dog and you welcome me. Somehow I knew that my internet query "dog friendly wineries" would fetch-up a destination just our speed. When I called to make our appointment at Mutt Lynch Winery (as required for most wineries that weren't grandfathered-in long ago), I think I caught the proprietors at a strategy session around their kitchen table . . . however, we agreed to meet at their Healdsburg winery at the appointed time that afternoon.

When you are looking for Mutt Lynch, look for the sandwich board sign out front as they share a facility with three or four other producers for tasting and production. Inside we met Chris and Brenda (owners) and their dog Patch (retired Greyhound) and had a chance to sample some of their wines. Our dog Beaker and Patch were a well-matched pair in that they reveled in mutually ignoring each other and sprawling out in repose while the humans conducted their business. A great value under screw cap with a fun label for dog lovers is the 2007 Portrait of a Mutt Zinfandel, which we bought enough to share with some of our local dog park friends. For a slight splurge (not by Napa/Sonoma proportions), but full of fruit and well-built was the 2005 Canis Major Cabernet Sauvignon, Perotti Vineyard. For those local to the Bay Area we just got word that Lunardi's market is carrying some of their wines, so please give them a swirl when you can!

While Mutt Lynch tops our list for Sonoma/Healdsburg, we've had some great dog-friendly winery experiences in other wine regions as well . . . so if you're in the Anderson Valley (nearer Mendocino) consider Toulouse and Goldeneye or up the Napa Valley way (near Calistoga) check out Dutch Henry.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One Word Wednesday . . . Splurge

Is there anything more decadent that chocolate dipped fruit? The rich chocolate paired with a juicy, ripe berry is marvelous and worth the splurge.

This berry is practically a party trick in itself! By melting the Ghiradelli chocolate chips in the microwave at 30 second intervals until smooth, it's too easy to dip fresh berries, dried apricots or shortbread. Let harden on wax paper and for bonus points, put a bit of melted white chocolate in a plastic bag and drizzle.

What are your favorite splurges?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Prosciutto and Puff Pastry Wrapped Asparagus that is Worthy of an Oscar!

We had our annual Oscar party this year and of course, we had an array of lovely appetizers and desserts worthy of the poshest Hollywood crowd. These prosciutto and puff pastry wrapped asparagus are flaky and flavorful, and easy to eat with just one hand while you balance your cocktail, your Oscar ballot or while you wave off the paparazzi!

However, the very best thing about this recipe is that it is incredibly easy to make while looking extremely impressive. Before you start you must allow 40 minutes to thaw the puff pastry- I haven't found a really good way to speed this up without overheating parts of the pastry.

Here's the original recipe but I made a few adjustments:

You will need:

• frozen puff pastry
• asparagus
• thinly sliced prosciutto
• parmesan cheese
• a tablespoon of butter

1. Thaw the puff pastry according to the instructions. Mine said 40 minutes at room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven at 400F. Wash and snap the ends off of the asparagus. Dry.

3. Using a rolling pin, smooth out the creases in the puff pastry and lay the thinly sliced prosciutto over the entire pastry.

4. Using a sharp knife, cut the puff pastry into about 12-14 strips- about 1/2-3/4 inches wide.

5. Wrap a strip of the puff pastry (with the prosciutto on the inside) around the asparagus spear in a diagonal fashion as shown. Place on cookie sheet.

6. Brush each wrap spear with melted butter and sprinkle grated or shredded parmesan on top. Press the parmesan into the pastry with your fingers if necessary.

7. Bake for 15 minutes at 400F. Check the bottom of the puff pastry to make sure it is done (and not burned)- but the top should be golden brown as well. If not, put back in for 2 minute increments until finished. Mine actually took about 18 minutes.

8. Let cool briefly and serve.

It was a smashing success. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How Would You Create the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie?

What does the perfect chocolate chip cookie taste like? Crunchy and crispy? Chewy and melty?

Last week at work, we held our first "food design" contest to create the Ultimate Chocolate Chip cookie. The only rule for the competition: the recipe must use chocolate chips.

We made these spectacular trophies for the "Most Delicious" "Most Healthy" and "Most Creative" submissions- no they are not edible!

The winners were:

• Most Delicious: Classic Chocolate Chip with Nuts using Ghiradelli 60% cacoa bittersweet chips made by Paul S. and David J. and served warm!

• Most Creative: The Cookie Chip made with coconut and secret ingredient: avocado by K and K.

• Most "Healthy": Chocolate Chip Cookies with Dried Apricots by Lindsey Z. Sorry Lindsey, I was so busy eating your cookies, that my photo turned out too blurry to post. Chocolate + fruit= yum!

If you are in the Bay might want to check out:

On March 21st, the SF Food Wars is having their own chocolate chip cookie contest. We've never been to Food Wars but looks like we should go! This one's already sold out but we can salivate over the 20 competitors and their cookie descriptions.

Do you have an ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe? What makes a chocolate chip cookie great?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Heart London Supermarkets

While London may not be reknowned for its cuisine, it should be know for its marvelous supermarkets and their quality, ready-to-eat options. Not too mention its stunning packaging design and clever, whimsical way of naming food.

A few years ago, a fellow foodie friend and I took a whirlwind tour of London supermarkets including Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and Tesco. Like an old episode of Supermarket Sweep, we raced around the stores loading up our carts. Ok, not really, but we did race around and took a lot of rogue photos (sorry, they aren't the best). In the spirit of the Sound of Music, these are a few of my favorite UK things:

What’s for dinner tonight?

This private label salmon and vegetable meal is one of many dishes in the prepared foods refrigerated section.

As well as these Easy to Cook meals- aren’t the photos on package gorgeous?

The power of dark packaging and the promise of perfect tenderness made this line of premium meals really stand out.

I loved the sensory descriptions of aromatic and crispy duck wrapped in pancakes.

And the take out appeal of these easy dinners.

Not to mention a very visual pizza offering- the real thing looks just as good as the photo!

and these veggies look fresh and vibrant in this transparent packaging.

American Breakfast Doesn’t Look Like This

This Banana Breakie to go has bananas, probiotic yogurt and oatmeal.

And who doesn't want a happy Christmas smoothie? I was pleasantly surprised by the seasonal flavors in breakfast cereal, yogurt smoothies and many products at Marks& Spencer.

A bit of toffee, apple and blackberry porridge.

I wouldn’t skip breakfast if it looked like this. Love it! Reminds me of this great blog: Simply Breakfast.


I'll have some clouds and fruits to drink, please.

Or just fruit...

or perhaps some toffee caramel and chocolate milk! Oh my!

or a smoothie for autumn made with damsons (plum), blackberries and apples.

Desserts and Other Scrummy Things

Scrummy may be the only word delicious enough to describe "Crazy Chocolate Overload."

Beautiful tarts...

and Serious desserts in actual crockery!

And these decadent desserts with toppings and swirls. I'll take a scoop of strawberries & cream pavlova ice cream.

And finally, we'll top it off with toffee probiotic yogurt or a bit of Christmas pudding lakemead yogurt.

And, we're full.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

One Word Wednesday...Retro

Last weekend, a friend of mine, Jones, was going to a fabulous Mad Men cocktail party and needed a retro recipe for the party. So, what's a girl to do but pull out my trusty reproduction copy of 1950 Betty Crocker Cookbook. A quick perusal of the appetizer section and I was reminded that the 1950s was not known for it's food, in fact, I hypothesize that this may be why the cocktails were so strong!

I found a recipe for Jones that I thought might be just the thing: Flaming Cabbage. This recipe, which was "an exciting, spectacular feature at a cocktail party of Mr. and Mrs. Phil Hindley's charming home, Oakland, California." was expertly made by Jones complete with hollowed out cabbage, sterno, cocktail weenies and pimento olives. Not only is it a centerpiece for the appetizer table (see photo above), but it's interactive as guests are to roast their cocktail weenies over the flame. Apparently it was quite a hit. Thanks, Jones, for sharing the photo and the story!

Have you ever made a fun retro recipe? We'd love to know.