“People are so busy searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Rita and I, we’ve found our rainbow; it’s this place. The gold? It’s the people, the guests, that come here” I’m walking with Dane Pitcher as he pours organic fertilizer at the base of his grape vines. It’s good work, Dane looks content, and chats with me while dumping the mixture from a five gallon bucket. We talk about everything from grapes to hops to career paths to love (he courted Rita for three years!) and drift back to grapes again.
It’s my second morning of a three-day trip on The Wine Road. We’re exploring The Alexander Valley, The Russian River Valley, and The Dry Creek Valley. I’ve awoken early to the smell of coffee brewing and the sounds of birds everywhere, not a bad way for a city girl to start the day.
I’m walking the small, but lovely vineyard with Dane, and shooting photos of the verdant garden he Rita have build. I slow my breath and stand nearly motionless trying to catch a photo of an elusive hummingbird. Just then, Rita calls me in for one of her outstanding homemade breakfasts: frittata with red pepper puree, perfectly roasted potatoes, and fragrant persimmon bread. As I’m digging into my potatoes, my ride, DJ, arrives.
As we head out for our second day, Dane offers me something I can’t pass up- the chance to learn how he makes wine. I tell him … get the recipe
I love the holidays. I like it when the air gets crisp. I love the tinsel and the flashing of Christmas lights behind drawn curtains as I walk the dog at night. I even love Christmas music.
I grew up in a family that made a big deal of the holidays. We had HUGE parties with lots of people- we hired a Santa at Christmas & an Easter Bunny when his time came around. Everyone was invited. While the fun and the chaos were always exciting, these parties were not my favorite part of the holidays. Christmas Day held gifts and a lovely family meal at my aunt’s stunning home in Napa. Still, this was not my favorite day of the season. It was always Christmas Eve when our closest family friends, The DeBonos, would come over for fondue.
I’ve known the DeBonos since I was five years old. The best thing about Christmas Eve was that nobody had to get gussied up, we didn’t have to be on our best behavior, and we always laughed until our faces hurt. Forget leaving pretenses at the front door, we could just pack them away in a box.
Much of my immediate family is gone now; it’s really just my brother and I. We’ve worked hard to build a family around us; people like (to mention a few) The DeBonos, our friends The Olivas, The Smiths, The Other Smiths, Miss Jackson, The Mackins, The Sloane-Frenches, The Jennings, Mr. Largo, Ms. Banana, and … get the recipe
I don’t know whether to call this experiment a success or a monumental failure. Certainly, if you look at the cost, I have failed and in a rather grand fashion. If you factor in taste, put a tick back in the success column. Looks, hmm… if you like your vodka to look rather like orange juice, SCORE!, but I am guessing you do not, so, fail again. Does learning count? Is no experiment a failed experiment?
I’ll back up a bit. Christianna, my lovely friend from Burwell General Store leads 20+ food bloggers in this really cool project every month. We remake vintage recipes from a little book called All-Day Singin’ and Dinner on the Ground. This is the fourth swap, I’ve participated in. My past recipes involved turning an old school cake into this lemon cake with rosemary caramael, Ozarkian Taffy Apples into these sopapillas, and Grandma’s chicken stew with drop biscuits into this Thai curry.
Finding The Inspiration:
I had a bit of a hard time deciding what to do this time. I thought of doing desert gnocchi, but someone jumped on that pretty quickly, then I thought of making some sort of pan-fried breaded croquette with a sweet oozy filling, but I found myself feeling uninspired by any of those things. I thought I had settled on a homemade shake and French fries for dipping (yum). I was discussing this plan with my husband over a plate of fries and a soy gelato shake when … get the recipe
So, I guess, I am officially a star, now! It’s what I aspired to as a child and I’ve finally made it. Thanks to Foodbuzz and Newman’s Own, I finally bit the bullet and made a cooking video- I did miss the Oscars to film this, little sucker, so what do you think, am I on my way to winning one?
A few weeks back, I received an email from Foodbuzz offering me the opportunity to get a free Flip HD video camera from Newman’s Own if I could come up with an enticing recipe using one or more of their products. No problem. Turns out, I grew up loving Paul Newman. A New Kind of Love is one of my favorite movies and one of my dad’s favorite movie’s was The Hustler. I’ll never forget the first time we saw Newman’s Own Virgin Lemonade; we had to have it. The fact that it tastes like real lemonade kept us coming back for more. As an adult, I’ve always loved Newman’s Own because of their philanthropic side. They’ve donated over $300 million to charity- that’s every penny of their profits!
The recipe I originally pitched to Newman’s Own and Foodbuzz was a chicken cutlet breaded, Milanese style, with their Honey Flax Flakes Cereal and topped with a Newman’s Own Virgin Lemonade Beurre Blanc Sauce (made with their own Pinot Gris). Well, I was thrilled when the box arrived filled with an awesome camera from Flip HD as well as … get the recipe
When I was asked to do some wine pairings for eco.love winery, I was totally thrilled. Not only do they make two lovely white wines, they are also the world’s first carbon-zero winery. (Pinot Noir is also coming in 2011) It seems they’re doing everything just about right. From their recycled glass bottles, to eco-friendly screw caps, to their (beautiful) ecologolically sound labels, to their really delicious wines, I am am thrilled with this wine.
The Sauvignon blanc is marvelously fruity with tropical notes- At first sniff I am immediately met by passion fruit and a whiff of lemon. This crisp white still finishes strongly and lingers on the tongue.
This lovely wine really sings with food, and when I started tasting with cucumber slices, I knew that this wine had to be paired with a cucumber dish. So in the spirit of the holidays, I decided on a hearty and healthy vegan roasted red pepper & white bean puree served in cucumber cups. The dish is super easy to prepare, and looks beautiful on a holiday table with it’s festive red and green color scheme. It is also a nice respite from so many heavy holiday treats. When my husband happily ate a whole plate of these, I can guarantee you that the wasn’t thinking about how vegan how healthy or how gluten free these were- he ate them solely based on yum factor.
One note: if you don’t have time or desire to make these into cucumber … get the recipe
No holiday meal would be complete without horchata. Wait, horchata? Yep horchata. At least, that’s how I feel, now. This Thanksgiving, we had a Latin influenced feast and my cocktail for the evening was spiced bourbon with horchata. It was met with mmm, yum, more, and delicious! And with a couple of “Who needs egg nog. Horchata for Christmas too!”s
Horchata is a whole lot healthier than egg nog as well- made with rice and nut meal rather than cream and eggs- I will be making this all holiday season and throughout the year now that I know how easy it is. There are many styles of horchata. Some from Mexico, El Salvador, Spain, and Nicaragua. Some are made with or without almonds, sesame seeds or tiger nuts and with or without milk. I chose to make mine with hazelnuts because some people in our party had almond allergies, but you could use almonds. Also, leave the bourbon separate until you mix the cocktail so that kiddies can enjoy it too. Next time, I’m definitely making a double batch because this went quickly!
Oh, and I had plenty of syrup left over, so I made cinnamon cream sodas and cinnamon vanilla milk. Both were out of this world!
Hot hot hot. It’s October, and it is smokin’ hot outside. There is nothing better to beat the heat than a little homemade soda pop. Since I’m crazy about chilies, I like my soda with a little edge to it. I came up with this jalapeño lime cooler, and Joshua, my love, added a splash (or three) of Hornitos to his and Miss Jackson’s coolers. I, being too hot to drink, just had mine plain.
Oh, and when I was done making the syrup, I ate those sweet candied jalapeños. I think I’d like to pour that syrup over ice cream, over shaved ice, maybe over some key lime muffins. Mmm, I think it’s got lots of possibilies. But for now, it’s just too darned hot to cook, let’s just drink.
1 cup water
1 cup organic raw sugar
24 oz soda water
Bring water, sugar, zest of two limes, and quartered jalapeños to a boil over medium heat
Cook until syrup thickens and begins to turn to a light caramel color
Remove from heat and remove jalapeños with tongs and set aside
Allow syrup to cool then add one tablespoon of syrup, and a slice syrupy jalapeño, and juice from ½ of a lime to a glass then fill with ice and soda water garnish with lime and serve. (or add tequila too)!
Hi, I’m Sabrina Modelle, The Tomato Tart. I’m a web designer by day and a cook, writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food copy writer by night.
When I get home from work, I love nothing more than to put on a vintage apron and throw a mess of flour and butter onto my ancient French butcher block and work it into a beautiful flaky pie crust.
Dinner at our house is a hand-made affair, and I believe that homemade food from whole, seasonal ingredients, can be simple and inexpensive- of course you’ll find some involved and extravagant dishes on this site too. The common thread is that they’re all made with seasonality, taste, and lots of love in mind.
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