Sunday, September 28, 2008

Preserving Summer

What better way of savoring the tastes of summer through the rest of the year, than making your own jam preserves and dried fruit? Making your own preserves is easier than you think, and makes a great hostess gift for your upcoming holiday parties.

Directions for Jam

What you need:
  • Mason canning jars with self-sealing two-piece lids (available at stores such as Safeway)
  • 4-6 cups Sugar
  • 1 box of fruit pectin such as Sure-Jell or Certo
  • High quality fruits as follows: Apricot-2 ½ lb. and 2 lemons, blackberry-2 qt., cherry-3 lb. orange marmalade-3 oranges, 2 lemons, peach or pear-3 lb fruit and 2 lemons, raspberry-4 pt., strawberry-4 pt.
Important tips before you start:

Use firm, ripe fruit. Buy new, flat jar lids for a good seal, and always use clean jars. Wash thoroughly before starting process. Measure ingredients exactly, for altering the amount of sugar or fruit cause a set failure.
  • Fill a large pot half-full with water and simmer.
  • Wash jars and screw bands in hot, soapy water and rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids and let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
  • Crush berries, peel and pit peaches, finely chop cherries, and pit and finely chop apricots with skins on.
  • Measure exact amount of fruit as instructed by pectin recipe instructions.
  • Measure the exact amount of sugar into a separate bowl.
  • Stir sugar (amount according to pectin instructions) into fruit in a saucepan.
  • Bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in pectin quickly and return to a full boil exactly 1 minute while stirring. Remove from heat and skim off any foam with metal spoon.
  • Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of topes. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids and screw on tightly. Add boiling water to cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Cover with lid and bring water to a gentle boil. Process jams 10 minutes. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. If lid spring back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.
  • Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Sore unopened jams for up to 1 year, and opened jams up to 3 weeks.
Drying Fruit

Natural Sun Drying
  • Dry in the sun by placing slices of food on a clean tray with sides and covering with cheesecloth or fine netting.
  • If possible, place a small fan near the drying tray to promote air circulation.
  • Drying times will vary.
  • Turn food once a day. Dry until the food has lost most of its moisture (vegetables will be brittle; fruits will be chewy).
NOTE: Sun drying is not recommended in cloudy or humid weather. The temperature should reach 90 degrees F by noon and the humidity should be less than 60 percent.

Oven Drying

  • Dry food in an oven that can be maintained at 140 degrees F or lowest setting. Leave door ajar 2 to 3 inches. Place a fan in front of the oven to blow air across the open door.
  • Spread the food in a single layer on racks or cookie sheet. Check food often. Turn food over to dry more evenly.
  • Drying time will vary (Tables 2 and 3). Do not leave oven on when no one is in the house.
  • When food is dehydrated 80 to 95% of the moisture is removed, making the dried weight of foods much less than the fresh weight.
Pasteurizing and Conditioning of Dried Foods
  • All sun-dried fruits and vegetables must be pasteurized to destroy insects. Place dried food evenly in shallow trays no more than 1 inch in depth. Vegetables should be heated at 150 degrees F for 30 minutes or 160 degrees F for 10 minutes. Fruits should be heated at 160 degrees F for 15 minutes.
  • Dried fruits must be conditioned prior to storage. Conditioning is the process of evenly distributing moisture present in the dried fruit to prevent mold growth. Condition dried fruit by placing in a plastic or glass container, sealing and storing for 7 to 10 days. The dried fruit in the containers should be shaken daily to distribute moisture. If condensation occurs, place the fruit in the oven or dehydrator for more drying and repeat the conditioning process.
  • Cool dried food should be placed in a closed container that has been washed and dried before storing. Home canning jars are good containers for storing dried foods. Store in a cool, dry, dark place.
  • Dried foods should be used within 3 to 6 months as they will lose their flavor and color to some extent during storage
Drying Fruits and vegetables information provided by Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension

Written by Karen

Food & Wine Pairing 101

With so much talk about the science behind wine and food pairing, it can sometimes feel overwhelming knowing what wine to pair with your meal. And since everyone’s palate is different, there is no easy one-size-fits all solution to food and wine pairing. But rest assured, there are some basic principles that you can learn to make pairing much easier. We’ve provided some basic guidelines that you can use to get started on finding your perfect food and wine pairings.

#1 – Eat & Drink What you Like

At the end of the day, food and wine pairing is about finding combinations that please your palate and eating and drinking what you enjoy. If you don’t like a certain type or style of wine, don’t worry about trying to pair it with your meal. Choose another wine. Pairing should be a pleasurable experience.

#2 – Understand the Basic Tastes

There are five basic tastes that exist: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami (or protein). The degree to which any of these tastes dominate your food, will help you determine the best wine to pair with your dish. Sweet and savory tastes in food make a wine taste drier and more astringent while salty and sour tastes in food make the wine taste fruitier and less acidic. As an example, if you are trying to pair a wine with a salty dish, choose an acidic white wine like Sauvignon Blanc. These taste principles put to test the classic chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon pairing. The chocolate will reduce the fruitiness of the Cabernet as it increases the tannins.

#3 – Balance is Key

Balance is a key principle of food and wine pairing. Match mild wines with mild foods and rich wines with rich foods. A classic pairing – a Pepper Steak with a spicy Zinfandel or Fettuccine Alfredo with a creamy Chardonnay.

#4 – Choose by Region

Wines go best with the foods their region of origin is known for. Although not a hard and fast rule, Italian wines go great with Italian food and French wines go great with French food. This can simplify the process when all else fails.

At the end of the day, don’t forget rule #1 – eat and drink what you like!

Written by Linzi

Does Being Nice Really Pay?

With the exception of a few admitted gripers, most people will tell you that complaining is not a favorite pastime. I am one of those people who often shy away from this kind of confrontation. Yet, once I do muster up enough courage to complain after receiving poor service, I usually feel better about the situation-even if all I was given in return was a simple apology. Certainly there are many things that one could complain about, but when it comes to receiving lousy service, how many of us really let our feelings be heard? Furthermore, does complaining really ever help?

Most reputable companies pride themselves on good service. In fact, most of the hotels and restaurants that I have worked for have listed service as a top priority within their brand motto. And they should, for often the service that a person receives, whether it comes from a restaurant server or a hotel front desk agent, is the defining moment of their overall experience.

Each year, companies pour millions of dollars into training their employees to offer exceptional service, and for a good reason. For example, The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) reported this year that for the second year in a row, Apple has received the best rating from PC buyers largely due to their good customer service. Dell, on the other hand, was rated much lower because of dissatisfaction with their inadequate service level. Dell’s customer complaints focused more on the poor customer service and not the actual products that they provided.

Most often a small situation can be corrected immediately, when that is done, it is less likely to be repeated again. Who hasn’t received one of those obnoxious evening calls from a service provider requesting us to take a survey? Of course, it is just their job, but it is an important part of the company’s strategy to increase a positive customer relationship. Once gathered, this survey information is passed on from one person to another, and it often ends up in a big pool of information that later takes on the form of an artfully presented pie chart. Why not save them a few steps and tell them immediately when sub-par service has been received?

Although a patron might find guest services less than satisfactory, a lot of people will tell you that they just don’t feel comfortable mentioning something that bothers them. Personally I find it particularly difficult to complain about service that I feel has not been up to standard. Of course I find no problem complaining when I get home to my husband who has had no part in the experience. Perhaps it comes from my parents who raised me to be quiet and not to complain. But besides being the customer receiving bad service, I have also been on the receiving end of these complaints. And most of the time, after recovering from the initial sting of the complaint, I often found the suggestion to be true and helpful.

Now before you open your mouth to holler out the first indiscretion that pops in your head, first make sure that you have a legitimate complaint. I can tell you from my own experience working in a hotel, that a lot of these unsubstantiated complaints are usually followed with a request for something free. Ungrounded complaints will get you nowhere. Most logical and concerned managers can see right through those falsities and will look into the situation intently.

Julie Watson from Forbes tells us that the first rule in complaining is knowing exactly what it is that you are complaining about, make sure it is worth mentioning, and know what action you want to come from it. So don’t think that by just complaining you will get a complementary dinner or a key lime pie on the house.

If there is a real fault in the service you received it is your right (and in some cases duty) to let someone there know about it. According to Susan Ward who runs an IT consulting business, good customer service is listening to your customers, dealing with complaints, being helpful, and taking the extra step. If this is true, and since most businesses do claim to strive for good service, we then should feel comfortable letting them know when good service has not been attained.

The next step is to know how to complain effectively and tactfully. There is actually a right and a wrong way of complaining. I remember when I was waiting tables, as hard as it was taking a complaint from a customer, I would much rather hear the complaint myself and attempt to resolve it, rather than find one of my smiling customers pulling my manager aside to complain of the problem. I would especially appreciate it when I was approached in a kind and respectful way.

Keith Bailey, co-author of Customer Service for Dummies, adds that you should not immediately ask to speak with a manager, or over-dramatize your emotions. Instead, he suggests that by just being polite and letting them attempt to rectify the situation, you will usually get them on your side.

Writing a letter is another way to express your concern if an issue has not been satisfied. When I was almost eight months pregnant with my daughter, I experienced the most awful plane ride on a return trip from a family reunion. Not only did we wait almost two hours for our plane to take off, but also we soon discovered that the toilet was inoperable. I kept myself from launching into a full panic attack by breathing (and swearing) into a paper bag.

After returning home from the miserable trip, I thought the only thing that could help me feel better was a box of Girl Scout cookies washed down with a strawberry milkshake. After all, the one time I had complained before about a plane being late, I was told that the tardiness of the planes was “out of their control”. My husband, however, promptly sat down that evening and wrote a letter explaining the many grievances that we encountered on our trip in a polite and formal letter. To my surprise, we received an apology and were credited airline points.

Maybe everyone would be more comfortable with complaints if they were called something different. For example, a discussion involves taking a more balanced approach, in which we actively try to understand the problem and remedy the situation. Another definition I found in Webster’s dictionary describes a possible solution with the word tip- meaning a “piece of advice or confidential information...” To many people today that word just means 20%.

It is your right as a customer to bring up concerns or problems with your service, and when executed correctly, these “complaints” can go a long way. Perhaps we can come to a better realization that in the service industry, a tactfully executed complaint might have a greater value than originally expected-like a really good tip.

Written by Karen

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gingered Apple Crisp

Apples are in season right now and you’ll find an abundance of varieties at your local grocery store and farmer’s market. There are over 2500 varieties of apples grown in the United States alone and California is one of the top apple producing states. Some of the local varieties you may find include Gravenstein, Golden Delicious and Fuji. Apples are great whether eaten fresh, added to a salad, incorporated into a main course or baked into pies and crisps. Here is one of our favorite apple crisp recipes. The ginger in the dish really highlights the flavor of the apples. We recommend using Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples. They keep their shape when baked and have both a sweet and tart flavor that make them perfect for baking.

Gingered Apple Crisp


1 ¼ cup flour

½ cup packed brown sugar

¾ cup unsalted butter

¾ cup sugar

½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (about 2 ounces)


4 ½ lbs tart apples (about 12)

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

½ cup sugar

Combine flour, sugars and ginger in processor. Add butter and blend using on/off turns, until small clumps are formed. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Put apples in a bowl, add sugar and lemon juice and toss. Put apple mixture in a 13x9in dish. Press to compact apples. Sprinkle topping evenly over apples. Bake about 45 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream.

Fall Wines

It doesn’t feel like it should be fall yet. The days are still warm in Northern California. But fall is definitely in the air and I’m starting to seek out meals that are more geared toward cold weather and with those meals, the perfect fall wines to match.

But what is a fall wine? Can you still drink your favorite Rieslings, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blancs even though it’s now officially fall? Of course you can. In fact, Riesling is one of my favorite wines to pair with many Fall-inspired dishes. But there are also some wonderful wines that I just don’t typically think of drinking in the warm summer months.

Take Viognier, a tantalizing white wine with a certain richness of flavor that makes a wonderful compliment to Fall dishes. Originating in the Northern Rhone region of France (alongside Syrah), Viognier is now planted in all regions of California, but you will find the majority of Viognier producers on the Central Coast.

The floral aromas and flavors that are so apparent in Viognier come from the same floral compounds that you find in Muscat and Riesling. These compounds are called terpens. You’ll often find that you get aromas of honeysuckle, citrus blossoms and lychee from Viognier, making it seem that the wine will be sweet. But that is the beauty of Viognier – the palate is rich and lush with flavors of citrus, peaches and ripe pears.

Because of its full body, Viognier pairs well with richer foods. Try fish or chicken with dried fruits or smoky flavors. Viognier is also a great match with rich, creamy cheeses.

Viognier to Try

Cline Cellars Los Carneros Viognier $16

Miner Family Simpson Vineyard Viognier $20

Calera Mt. Harlan Viognier $28

Another of my favorite fall varietals is Pinot Noir, especially those from California and Oregon. Pinot Noir is extremely flexible for food pairing and its delicacy is perfect for many fall dishes. For something different, you may also want to seek out a Pinot Meunier. One of the three grapes allowed in the production of champagne, Pinot Meunier is mutation of Pinot Noir and often exhibits more deep fruit flavors.

Pinot Noir to Try

Sebastiani Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir $18

A to Z Wineworks Oregon Pinot Noir $20

Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier $25

Written by Linzi

Great Day or Weekend Getaways

MacCallum House in the Evening, Photo: John Birchard

With a cooler wind in the air and the last of the long summer days threatening to leave us for the fall, there is no better time to get out there for a weekend get-a-way. And with soaring airline prices, these “mini” vacations will be a lot more comfortable for your wallet, too. Here are a few of our choices for weekend get-a-ways around the Bay area.

Drive up California’s Route 1 and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the rugged coastline and quaint sea-side villages. Autumn is the quietest time of year to take this drive. You’ll want to give extra time for sightseeing and stops along the way. Just 2 hours north of San Francisco is Mendocino County which is home to 53 wineries.

Visit San Francisco’s Chinatown. Step into another world where Pagoda-shaped roofs and painted dragons greet you, and where the best authentic Chinese food is literally right around the corner. Immerse yourself into the festive livelihood of this neighborhood and stay at San Francisco’s only Mobil Five-Star hotel—the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Lake Tahoe and the Sierras has a lot to offer this time of year, and the best time to beat the crowds. South shore Lake Tahoe offers more beaches and restaurants, but more crowded. If you are looking for a little more action, check out the casinos or the old logging town of Truckee, if you are in the mood for something charming and low-key. Check out Lake Tahoe’s official website, for maps, lodging, specials and trip ideas.

Mendocino – stay at the MacCallum House Inn & Restaurant located in the historic Mendocino village. The house was originally built in 1882 by the town’s founder, William Kelley as a wedding gift to his daughter. Now it’s a beautiful bed and breakfast with views of the ocean from many rooms, a wine & cheese tasting in the afternoon (with their homemade breads) and one of the best breakfasts in Northern California. Visit for more information and look online for their special “$200 slow down refund” on your stay.

Sebastopol in Sonoma County is a town known for its Gravenstein apples, although most of the apple orchards have now been replaced by vineyards (producing excellent Pinot Noir)! Eat at Hopmonk Tavern where you can enjoy Hopmonk’s own specialty brewed beers or try another beer from their extensive selection. They also have a great wine list featuring many local producers. While in Sebastopol, don’t miss Screamin’ Mimi’s which makes their own ice creams and sorbets. If you’re lucky, they may have some of their special Gravenstein Apple Sorbet the day you visit. If you want to get a feel for what Sebastopol built its reputation on, make sure to make an appointment to pick apples at Gabriel Farm on Sullivan Road.

Monterey is a scenic and romantic choice for a weekend getaway. The town of Monterey boasts the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row—full of dining options and shopping along the wharf. Not too far from Monterey is the charming town of Carmel is home to Clint Eastwood and countless artists and photographers and writers. There are many boutiques and galleries for the art lovers, and fine dinging for the food lovers.

Written by Karen

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fig Recipes

Photo Courtesy of Photographer Jessica Friedrich

Figs are in season right now, and popping up in your local grocery stores and farmer’s markets in abundance. This time of year, figs make their way into both savory and sweet dishes, either as a sauce to accompany red meat, or as a topping for a fruit tart. Try our two fig recipes—a very popular fig, gorgonzola, and caramelized onion pizza created by our chef Emily B., and a fabulous fig biscotti, a perfect end-of-summer treat!

Fig, Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onion Pizza

Basic Pizza Dough:

3 tsp. yeast

1 tsp. salt

1 ½ cups warm water

2 ½ cups white flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

3 Tbsp. olive oil

Pizza Topping:

1 small (1/4 lb) wedge of Gorgonzola or Cambozola cheese

1 pint of fresh mission figs, sliced

1 red onion, sliced

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp. sugar

½ tsp. thyme

salt and pepper

Dissolve the yeast into the warm water and add oil and salt. Mix the flours and knead them into the liquid mixture. Let the dough rise for 30-40 minutes, and roll out dough. Bake on pizza stone or baking sheet at 450 for 7 min or until crust is firm. Cook sliced onion with sugar, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt in a pan at medium heat until slightly brown. Spread cheese evenly over pizza, then add the caramelized onions and sliced figs. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon thyme, pepper, sea salt. Bake at 450 for 5 minutes, cut and serve.

By Chef Emily Buller

Fig Biscotti

1 ½ cups of plain flour, sifted.
½ tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cocoa powder
2/3 cup superfine sugar
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup of dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup of dried figs, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place the sifted flour in a large bowl with the baking powder, cocoa powder and sugar. In another bowl, combine the eggs, chopped chocolate and chopped figs. Gradually add the egg/choc/fig mixture to flour mixture, stirring to form a stiff dough. Transfer the dough to an even work surface, lightly dusted with flour, and knead briefly with your hands until smooth. Divide the dough in half and shape into two long logs. Place logs on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and press along top of log to slightly flatten. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Cut logs into half-inch thick slices, then place on baking trays and bake for another 10 minutes or until hard. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

This recipe is taken from

Exploring Dry Creek Valley

Photo Courtesy of Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley - M.J. Wickham Photographer

Located just north of the bustling town of Healdsburg, Dry Creek Valley is a 16 mile long oasis of vineyards and wineries known for their outstanding Zinfandels and Sauvignon Blancs. One of the best ways to explore this area is by bike. However, if you plan on tasting a lot of those zins, you may opt for a driver!

Although you really can’t go wrong in Dry Creek Valley, there are a few not-to-miss spots. We recommend picking up a picnic lunch at Oakville Grocery in downtown Healdsburg. Then heading out to Lambert Bridge Winery. This is a picturesque little winery located on Dry Creek Road with a beautiful picnic area. Pick up a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc inside, eat your picnic lunch and then head back in for a full tasting of their delicious wines. Be sure not to miss their Maple Vineyards Zinfandel.

Heading north on Dry Creek Road, you will find Papapietro Perry Winery. This small family winery specializes in small lots of single-vineyard designate Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. They make about 6,000 cases and the wines are fantastic.

If it’s time for a snack, head to Preston Vineyards. This winery is located on the northern edge of Dry Creek Valley. Focused on organic farming, the family makes fresh bread and olive oil in addition to their wines. The bread can only be purchased at the winery and is a great tasting complement to their Zinfandel or Barbera wines. They also make a wonderful Syrah.

Mark Your Calendars!
In April, the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley host an event called Passport. The 2009 event will be held the weekend of April 25 and 26. Many of the area’s 63 wineries will create a unique theme around their wine and food hospitality. It’s an event not to miss. Visit for more information.

Written by Linzi

What’s Healthier—Red or White?

The health benefits of wine first gained fame in the early nineties when 60 Minutes did a feature on the positive impact of drinking red wine in moderation. But what about the health benefits of white wine, and how do they compare to reds?

There are several benefits of drinking wine in moderation. First there is the alcohol, which can raise “good” HDL cholesterol, reduce blood clots and lower blood pressure, says Kathy Kitchens Downie in the September issue of Cooking Light.

Red wine also contains more milligrams of potassium (180 vs. 101) than its white counterpart, and only slightly more alcohol. The potassium wine contains helps maintain fluid balance in the body, and one glass of red wine contains 120 calories, compared with 118 calories in white wine.

There are the antioxidants found in both types wine. Past studies have indicated that the majority of protective compounds in grapes--polyphenolic antioxidants--reside in the skin and seeds of grapes. Since the skins are separated from the pulp to make most white wines, then it has been concluded that red wines and red grape juice are the most heart healthy.

But recent studies—such as one presented in the ACS Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry—have challenged this idea, finding that there is evidence that the flesh of grapes is equally cardio-protective as the skins are.

The key to obtaining any of the wine benefits, however, is to enjoy wine in moderation, with no more than one glass per day for women and two glasses for men.

Written by Karen

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

As Easy as Thai

Do you want to host a unique dinner party that will impress your guests, or maybe you’re just looking to expand your culinary repertoire? Try a Thai themed dinner. A lot of Thai dishes are quite easy to prepare, although no one would ever guess.

Thai Coconut Curry Soup

4 garlic cloves

2 small fresh ginger roots

1 head scallion


Shitake mushrooms

1 package Odon noodles

2 cans coconut milk

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp curry powder

½ cup carrots (Julianne)

3 bunches of bok choy

2 tsp. lime juice

Chop garlic cloves, fresh ginger root and scallion head, and add to heated olive oil in a large sauce pan. Next, add lemon grass, shitake mushrooms, water and Odon Noodles flavor pack. Strain lemon grass. Add coconut milk, soy sauce, curry powder, and carrots. Next, add Odon noodles, bok choy and lime juice.

Thai Rice Noodle Salad

1 bunch mint

1/ cup basil, chopped

1 bunch scallions, sliced

1 tbsp. ginger

1tbsp garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

1 package rice noodles

Follow instructions on rice noodles package, and cool noodles immediately after cooking. In a pan, sauté ginger, garlic and olive oil until tender. Add mint, basil and scallions, and fold together into rice noodles.

What wine to serve?

Although there are a few red wines that may go with Thai, a white wine is probably the best choice. Red wines tend to override the spices or clash with them, and contain tannins that dry your mouth and exaggerate any heat in the dish. White wines, on the other hand, have no tannin and have a higher acidity to counteract any heat in the dish and cleanse your palate. Try a Riesling, aromatic Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, or a Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris.

Written by Karen

Irresistible Riesling

Riesling has made a comeback. The versatile varietal originated in the Rhine and Mosel river valleys of Germany and before prohibition was actually the dominant white variety grown in the Napa Valley. At one point, it was even more popular than Chardonnay. But in the 70’s and 80’s, it took a back seat to the extremely popular Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in California. These days it’s back on the radar and excellent Rieslings are being discovered from Germany and France to Australia, Canada, Washington and California.

Ranging anywhere from syrupy sweet to bone dry, Riesling is a varietal that is defined by the area in which it is grown. This can often confuse wine drinkers who do not know if they should expect a sweet wine or an extremely dry wine when they pick up a bottle of Riesling. Some Rieslings that are labeled as dry still have noticeable residual sugar. But as more wine drinkers discover Riesling, the quality and quantity of Riesling available has increased dramatically.

Riesling is a very aromatic variety, characterized by floral aromas and intense apple, pear and stone fruit flavors. It often has a strong minerality and can exhibit the unique aroma of petrol – a smell that’s often associated with kerosene or rubber. Petrol aromas often increase as a Riesling ages. Although most Rieslings are drunk upon release, unlike many other white wines, Riesling may actually improve as it ages. Some sweet Riesling can even be aged for 30+ years!

Wine Tip: When selecting a German Riesling, take note of the label. The terms Auslese, Spatlese and Kabinett refer to the level of ripeness of the grapes at harvest and typically correspond to the sweetness level of the wine. Auslese is the sweetest and Kabinett the driest.

Rieslings to Try

Here are a few great tasting Rieslings from various regions that are reasonably priced and that you should be able to find fairly easily.

Claiborne & Churchill Riesling, California – This San Luis Obispo vintner produces dry but fruity wines that are typical of Alsatian style Rieslings. Their 2006 vintage has great aromas of white peach and nectarine with good acidity and lots of rich fruit flavor. $18

Chateau St. Michelle Columbia Valley Dry Riesling, Washington – Their refreshingly dry Riesling is crisp and vibrant with loads of great stone fruit, citrus and melon aromas and flavors. A steal at $9.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Riesling, Australia – This is a classic Australian Riesling from Eden Valley with more lime and green apple on the nose than the floral aromas of German or Californian Rieslings. The strong citrus and lemon flavors make for a refreshing but long-lasting wine. $18

Dr. Loosen Riesling – Riesling is the only varietal that this German winery grows. Their Dr. Loosen Riesling is widely available in the U.S. and very reasonably priced. The wine exhibits classic traits of Mosel Riesling with strong floral and juicy pear aromas and just a touch of sweetness and good acidity. $12

Written by Linzi

Monday, September 1, 2008

Slow Food Nation

On Saturday evening, I visited the Slow Food Nation Taste Pavilion at Ft. Mason. Slow Food Nation occurred this past weekend in San Francisco with events throughout the city including a music festival, dinners, lectures, a farmer’s market and much more. The highlight of the event was the Taste Pavilion which featured products from every state that were hand-picked by experts in their respective food categories. There were 15 “taste pavilions” including Bread, Beer, Charcuterie, Cheese, Chocolate, Coffee, Fish, Honey & Preserves, Ice Cream, Native Foods, Olive Oil, Pickles & Chutney, Spirits, Tea and Wine. Each pavilion featured special tasting flights or food plates.

The event was one of four Taste Pavilion sessions that occurred throughout the weekend and it was packed. The food was top quality and every pavilion had its own theme and education in addition to the food it was serving. In the Charcuterie Pavilion we tasted through a “flight” of salumi from various purveyors around the country, while in the Chocolate Pavilion we tasted several stages of chocolate production from cocoa nibs to the final chocolate bar. Unfortunately, by the time I made it to the Cheese Pavilion (one that I’m sure would have topped my list), the line was at least 100 people deep and out the door. I love the concept of Slow Food but I was hungry and had many other pavilions to visit!

I wish I could have made it to some of the other Slow Food Nation events occurring throughout the city. But the Taste Pavilions were a great sampling of what this organization and event is all about. If you didn’t get to experience Slow Food Nation, you may want to stop by the Victory Gardens at San Francisco’s City Hall. Slow Food Nation just announced that they will be in place until November. For more information, visit

Written by Linzi