Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall Comfort Food

It’s time for fall comfort food and this week we put together some recipes that are easy to make and create a hearty and warm fall meal for any occasion. Karen’s Spicy Cajun Beans with Rice & Sausage are easy to prepare and Linzi’s Spoon Corn Bread makes a great companion to the dish. We recommend pairing this meal with a medium-bodied Zinfandel or a Spanish Rioja - wines that will balance the spiciness and compliment the rich flavors of the dish.

Spicy Cajun Beans with Rice & Sausage

1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 onion diced
4 cups cooked rice
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 smoked sausage or vegetarian links
3 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons creole seasoning
Crushed red pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook 4-5 cups of brown rice and set aside. In a large saucepan, add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, diced onion, sliced sausage, bay leaves and bell pepper and cook at a medium temperature for about 10 minutes. Add chili powder, garlic, creole seasoning and cooked rice. Add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste.

Spoon Corn Bread

2 lightly beaten eggs
1 - 8 ½ oz package corn muffin mix
1 - 8 oz can cream style corn
1 - 8 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup sour cream
2/3 stick butter
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Combine eggs, muffin mix, cream style and whole corn, sour cream and butter. Spread in 11x7x1 ¾ baking dish. Top with Swiss cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, just until it is a little brown on top.

Scary Wines

Halloween is almost here and this week we hunted down some of the most frightening wines for your scary bash. Each of these wines is both a trick and a treat – unique and frightful labels that are sure to be crowd pleasers for their great taste.

Twisted Oak – the River of Skulls Mourvedre is a limited production wine that comes from the Sierra Foothills. Although Mourvedre is a unique varietal for many, the wine is a sure thing crowd pleaser. Loads of cherry, raspberry and strawberry are balanced by pleasant vanilla and spice flavors. Although it’s hard to get your hands on (it’s only available through the mailing list), this one is hard to beat at $29.

PoiZin – this “to die for” Zinfandel is made from grapes grown in the Dry Creek Valley. The wine has bright fruit flavors and a nice subtle texture. Made by Armida Winery in Healdsburg, this wine retails for $25. Armida also makes a reserve Zinfandel that is a limited edition blend of their best Zinfandels. The wine retails for $60 and comes in a “coffin” box.

Vampire Vineyards – the first release of their Chateau du Vampire is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec ($20). These vampires grow and make their wines in Paso Robles where they are able to make well rounded, fruit forward wines from their coastal vineyards. You can also find several other varietals including a Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay between $10-15.

Written by Linzi

Cuvee Restaurant

Cuvee is a romantic restaurant located in Napa that has an eclectic menu of “new American favorites”. On my first visit, I made sure to make a reservation after hearing good reviews from friends. When we arrived, our table was not quite ready, but with the cozy atmosphere around the bar area, I did not mind a small wait. Fifteen minutes later our table was ready and we were seated inside the dining room which had an alluring mix of modern and rustic décor, and plenty of candlelight to set the mood. The main dining room had a wall that was completely open to the adjacent private courtyard that made the room feel more expansive, and still intimate.

Our server was friendly, although service was slow. It was a weekend, and the dining room and the patio were both packed, so I assumed that they must be just understaffed on a busy night. We ordered appetizers, which were delicious—crispy duck lettuce cups with stir-fried vegetables and hoisin glaze ($13).

We had to ask again for a drink that was ordered when we were seated, and it came after we finished the appetizer, which has disappointing. I also had to ask for silverware after my main course arrived.

The food, however, was anything but disappointing. For my main course I ordered the Potato Wrapped Salmon ($22.50) with herbed orzo pasta in a citrus butter sauce. The salmon was fresh and flaky and paired beautifully with the crispy potato coating the fish, and the tender orzo pasta was mildly flavored with fresh herbs. My husband tried an assortment of gourmet sausages and grilled vegetables, which were very flavorful and quite a unique main course.

Cuvee has live music every Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30. They have half priced cocktails and drafts on Mondays thru Fridays from 4-7pm, and no corkage fees on Wednesdays. They can also accommodate large parties on their patio and dining room for the holidays.

I enjoyed the food immensely, which compensated for the poor service and I would definitely recommend this restaurant. Although, you may try a week night or earlier in the evening to ensure better service.

Cuvee Restaurant is located on Soscol Avenue next to the River Terrace Inn. Visit for more information.

Written by Karen

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A New Brewery in Town

How many new breweries can boast a famous brew master as well as claim ties to the oldest microbrewery in the United States? Check out Napa Smith Brewery, the new family brewery in town that just released its first beers in May.

This beer story begins when the adventurous Smith Family purchased Albion Castle in San Francisco in hopes of starting a brewery and making quality microbrew beers. Albion Castle is a historic landmark and an important part of San Francisco’s history because of the artesian waters that flow beneath the buildings, and it was the first microbrewery to open in the United States—built in the 1870’s.

Soon the Smith family found that this historic property could not handle the projected volume of beer they would soon be producing, and so they chose to open a brewery in their hometown in the Napa Valley, located at the intersection of Highways 29 and 12.

Founded in 2007, Napa Smith will produce 200 barrels in 2008, and they expect to increase their production as their distribution expands. This family business has the goal of crafting the highest quality beers. To help them achieve these goals, they have recruited brew master “legend” Don Barklay who helped create Red Tail Ale, and who has over 35 years of experience crafting high quality microbrew beers. Don was also raised in the Napa Valley and calls it home.

Pale Ale: This flagship beer is light golden in color that is rich with hops and boasts a bold malt and spicy hop character. It has a clean finish, low bitterness, and a rich malted barley finish.

Amber Ale: This deep amber colored ale has a thick foam head and pours a medium body full of complex flavors of caramel malt, balanced with a light spiciness. It also has a low bitterness and a clean, sweet finish.

Wheat Beer: This is one of our favorites. This beer stands out with notes of citrus balanced with subtle flavors of barley and wheat malts. As a result, the taste is light and dry with lasting notes of citrus.

You can find Napa Smith Brewery beers at Whole Foods, Sunshine Foods and other specialty retail stores in Napa and Sonoma.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Beer Battered Fish

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I just crave a delicious meal of fish and chips. The Silverado Brewery and the Market in St. Helena are two of my favorite places to get them. I have recently decided to try making my own, and have come up with this recipe that uses a dill and herb beer batter to create a light, fresh taste. Baked sweet potato fries drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper makes a great seasonal accompaniment to this dish.

2 lbs frozen cod, thawed

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons pepper

½ teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon fresh or dried dill weed

2 (12 ounce) cans cold beer

1 egg, beaten

2 quarts vegetable oil (for frying)

Stir together flour, salt, pepper, paprika, dill and garlic powder. Add about 1 ½ cans of beer, egg, and blend thoroughly. Set batter aside while you heat your deep-fryer or deep pan of oil to 375 degrees. Cut the cod fillets diagonally into 2 inch wide strips, making sure you remove all bones. When oil is heated, lightly coat fish in flour mixture and fry fish fillets until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve with lemon, tartar sauce and chips.

Written by Karen