Monday, November 24, 2008

Spiced Butternut Squash Pie

Thanksgiving is here in just a few days, and if you are having anyone over, there is a good chance that someone is bringing the traditional Pumpkin Pie. I have to say that I am a fan of this old favorite standard, but why not bring a delightful surprise to the table using my favorite seasonal vegetable, the butternut squash. I cringed my entire life over hearing the word “squash” until I tasted this sweet and scrumptious variety. Since then, I have discovered numerous ways to cook it, and this is one of the most delicious discoveries yet!

Spiced Butternut Squash Pie

1 unbaked and chilled 9-inch pie shell

1 large butternut squash, cooked and pureed, about 1 1/2 cups pureed squash

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

3 large eggs

3/4 cup evaporated milk or half-and-half

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon melted butter

2 teaspoon vanilla

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove stem and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash, cut side down, on a foil-lined oiled baking pan; add about 1/2 cup of water to the pan. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the squash is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. Cool completely, then peel and mash or puree the squash or put it through a food mill. Measure 1 1/2 cups of the squash and set aside.

Turn oven down to 350 degrees and position an oven rack in the center of the oven. In a mixer, combine the squash and the brown sugar. Then add eggs, evaporated milk, spices salt, flour, butter, and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Next, pour the filling into the chilled pie and place on the center oven rack. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until set. Check after about 35 minutes. When the filling is set, place the pie on to cool. Serve just warm or at room temperature and top with whipped cream.

Recipe by Karen Grimes & Emily Buller

Drinking Bubbles

“I am drinking the stars!” – Dom Perignon, on his first sip of Champagne

Sparkling wine is one of my favorite indulgences. And although I can drink it any time of the year, the holidays present many more opportunities as it flows freely from one holiday party to the next. Sparkling wine has long had a reputation for being a celebration wine and you find it making its appearance around Thanksgiving, Christmas and its most revered holiday – New Years. I would argue that you can drink sparkling wine any time of the year and that it makes a great pairing for many foods. But I also love the festive feel of sparkling wine and think that its emergence this time of year is the perfect way to kick off any holiday celebration.

Sparkling wine comes by many names throughout the world – Champagne from France, Cava from Spain, Asti from Italy and Sekt from Germany. No matter where its origin, sparkling wine is bubbly because of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is a result of natural fermentation (method champenoise), secondary fermentation (Charmat process) or an injection of CO2. Natural fermentation results in the highest quality sparkling wines and is the only method allowed in the Champagne region of France.

Sparkling wine can be a bit intimidating from the pressurized cork to the special glassware used to serve it. Although it’s true that flying corks cause some commotion, there is nothing to worry about. There are plenty of demonstrations on the internet for properly opening a bottle of sparkling wine. When you serve sparkling wine, pour a very small amount (about an ounce) into the glass and let it settle. Then top off the glass. This will help you avoid the wine foaming over the top of the glass.

Holiday Cocktail Idea: PAMA and Bubbly
PAMA is a pomegranate liqueur that can be found in most liquor stores. Peel the fruit from a fresh pomegranate and place 4-5 seeds into a sparkling wine glass. Fill the glass with 2-3 oz of PAMA liqueur and 1-2 oz of sparkling wine. Gently stir to mix and serve.

Favorite Bubbles

Some of our favorite California bubbles…

Domaine Chandon California Blanc de Noirs – vibrant strawberry and cherry flavors with a smooth, creamy finish. Melts in your mouth. $22

Domaine Carneros Brut Rose
- a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, drinking this sparkling rosé is like biting into a big juicy, ripe strawberry. $36

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut
– A great sparkling for the price with yummy citrus and pear flavors. The fruit comes from Gloria Ferrer's Carneros vineyards. $20

Mumm Napa Valley DVX – worth the splurge at $55 a bottle. The fruit for DVX comes from select vineyards in the Napa Valley. It’s a rich and well-balanced wine with flavors of green apple, raspberries and peaches.

Written by Linzi

Redd - Contemporary California Cuisine in Yountville

With a modern décor and minimalist appeal, the atmosphere of Redd is divergent from many other Napa-style restaurants. The livelier bar area contrasts with the much more reserved fine dining section, but yet they seem to coexist without too much conflict.

You will need to make a reservation if you wish to eat in the main dining room, as I found out upon arrival. We were seated at a small table in the bar area. The atmosphere was modern and sophisticated with a clean, minimalist approach. Our server was prompt and courteous, and knew the menu well, making several suggestions for us.

I tasted the fish tacos from the bar menu, which were fresh and tasty, and large enough to have satisfied me. For a main course, I selected the Alaskan halibut with gnocchi, vegetables and butter ($29) which was divine. My only regret was that I was too full to sample any desserts.

The cuisine is regionally inspired seasonal dishes infused with ethnic influences. A few of the menu items are caramelized diver scallops with a cauliflower puree ($16) as a starter, spring lamb with chickpea fries, sweet pepper and tapenade ($31), and signature dishes of hibachi on sticky rice with lime ginger sauce, and risotto with main lobster.

Redd is on our recommended list for its eclectic menu with a creative take on contemporary California cuisine. Chef Reddington sums it up by saying, “With Redd, I’ve created the type of restaurant that I like to spend time at—an inviting place that serves creative food and thoughtfully chooses wines in an elegant, contemporary space.”

Written by Karen

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thanksgiving Recipes

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is time to start planning for your special holiday feast. This week we have put together a mouthwatering selection of our favorite holiday dishes, each with its own savory new twist! Sage and honey roasted turkey, brussels sprouts with parmesan and pancetta, sweet potato fries, orange-spice glazed carrots, and rustic horseradish mashed potatoes…

Sage and Honey Roasted Turkey


1 ½ cups salt

4 cups brown sugar

2 cups honey

4 sprigs of rosemary

6 sprigs of sage

2 tbsp. ground cinnamon

2 lemons, halved

2 gallons boiling water


1 fresh or thawed turkey (about 18-20 lb.)

2 pounds of butter, melted

½ cup honey

2 sprigs Rosemary and sage, chopped

Salt and pepper

Place turkey in brine for 10-12 hours in a container large enough to cover the turkey with brine, and keep it cool in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove turkey from brine, pat dry with paper towel and place in a roasting pan. Combine melted butter, honey and herbs and rub butter over turkey skin. Insert several sprigs of sage and 1 rosemary sprig inside of turkey (along with stuffing, if using). Place turkey, uncovered in oven. Every 30-40 minutes, baste with herbed honey-butter. When the thickest part of the thigh is 160 degrees then the turkey is done. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it cool for about 20 minutes. Garnish with rosemary and sage, dressing, or roasted vegetables.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan and Pancetta

2 lb brussels sprouts

8 cups water


2-3 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

4 tbsp. shallots, chopped (about 2 large shallots)

1 tbsp. garlic, chopped

3-4 slices of Pancetta, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Boil brussels sprouts in 8 cups salted water until tender, then place into ice water bath. Sauté pancetta and garlic in butter for several minutes over medium heat. Remove Brussels sprouts from ice water and cut (vertically) in half. Next, add Brussels sprouts and shallots to pancetta and garlic and cook over high heat until brown on sides, adding more butter if needed. Add chopped thyme, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Serves approximately 6.

Sweet Potato Fries

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled

3 ½ tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut the sweet potatoes in have, lengthwise and cut each half into 3 long spears. Place on sheet pan and sprinkle with olive oil. Mix brown sugar, salt and pepper and sprinkle onto potatoes. Bake for 15-20 minutes and turn over fries to bake another 5-10 minutes until lightly brown. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and garnish with chives. Serves approximately 6.

Orange-Spice Glazed Carrots

1 lb baby carrots

½ cup butter

¼ tsp. salt

4 tbsp. sugar

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

Zest from 1 lemon

1 cup orange juice

3 tsp. flour

2 cups water

Parsley (optional)

Melt butter in a pan over low heat. Add carrots and cook for 3 minutes, then add sugar, salt, spices, orange juice and flour. Next, add the water, cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Garnish with lemon zest and parsley. Serves approximately 6.

Rustic Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

6 red or new potatoes

3 tbsp. sour cream (optional)

1 cup (low-fat optional) milk, buttermilk or whole whipping cream

½ stick butter

3-4 tbsp. prepared (creamed) horseradish

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot of salted water, boil potatoes until very tender, leaving skins on for a more rustic texture. Smash potatoes in pot and add (warmed) milk or cream, and butter. Blend until creamy, and add sour cream, horseradish, and salt and pepper. Serves approximately 6.

Recipes by Emily Buller and Karen Grimes

Turkey Day Wines

How do you find a wine that will take you from appetizers through to dessert on Thanksgiving with the many side dishes and flavors that make their way to the table? There is no perfect pairing for the entire Thanksgiving meal (although we could argue that Riesling comes close). Instead, make it fun by bringing a wide variety of wines to your table. This is the perfect opportunity to open up a little bit of everything. Although there are certain wines that definitely pair better with turkey, the numerous side dishes that go along with your feast make almost any wine a great match for your meal. This week we scouted out our favorite turkey day varietals and some of our favorite wines.

Sparkling Wine – A little bit of bubbly is the perfect way to break the ice on Thanksgiving day. And it goes great with appetizers or a festive cheese plate before sitting down to your meal. We love Domaine Chandon’s Blanc de Noir. It’s made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and has strong flavors of strawberry, currant and a bit of blackberry ($22).

Gewürztraminer - Gewürztraminer really holds its own on the Thanksgiving table. This highly aromatic varietal is full bodied and flavorful yet versatile enough to pair with many dishes. We love Gundlach Bundschu’s Alsatian-style Gewurtz with loads of peach, pear and lychee aromas and flavors with a hint of spice that is classic for this varietal ($25). Another favorite is Claiborne & Churchill’s Dry Gewürztraminer ($18). A small, family-owned winery in Eden Valley, Claiborne & Churchill focuses on making Alsatian-style wines.

- As we mentioned before, Riesling may just be the ultimate Thanksgiving wine. It’s an extremely versatile wine with low alcohol and high acidity that can handle everything from salty appetizers to marshmallow topped sweet potatoes. And it makes for a great palate cleanser for all those courses. We recommend Beringer’s Napa Valley Riesling ($16). This is a dry Riesling with lots of citrus flavor and a long, smooth finish.

Rose - Rose is another great option for Thanksgiving dinner. Especially if you want to bridge the gap between red and white wine. Not only is the color festive but the fruity flavors of Rose tend to make a great match with turkey. We recommend one of our favorites - Etude’s Rose of Pinot Noir from Carneros ($20).

Pinot Noir – If you are not a fan of Riesling and prefer red wines on your Thanksgiving table, then the second runner up for best all around Turkey Day wine would be Pinot Noir. With its moderate acidity, lighter body and low tannins, it won’t overpower many of the dishes on your table. Select a Sonoma Pinot Noir from Russian River or Dry Creek Valley.

- Merlot has gotten a bad rap in recent years, but we love a good bottle of Merlot at Thanksgiving. It’s versatile, easy-drinking and often less expensive than Cabernet. We recommend Hall Winery’s Napa Valley Merlot ($28). The wine is sourced from estate vineyards in the Napa Valley and is outstanding for the price.

Cabernet Sauvignon – No Thanksgiving table would be complete with a bottle of Cab and this is where we usually splurge, either by bringing something special out of the cellar or trying out something new. We recently enjoyed an excellent Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Bremer Family Winery located in the Howell Mountain region of the Napa Valley. Their 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($60) has great plum, berry and chocolate flavors with an extremely smooth finish. The tannins are not overpowering, making it a great wine for Thanksgiving.

The week before Thanksgiving is a great time to buy wine since many merchants will have specials on top selling wines. Take advantage of these deals and bring some variety to your Thanksgiving Day table, whether you are hosting or just bringing along a bottle for friends and family to enjoy. For more information on any of the wines above, be sure to visit their web sites.

Written by Linzi

Breggo Cellars

Anderson Valley is one of our favorite winegrowing regions and the varietals that come out of this region are perfect additions to the Thanksgiving table (think Pinot Noir, Riesling and Gewürztraminer), making this a great time of year to revisit this small valley in Mendocino County. We’ve written about our travels through the winding roads of Anderson Valley before and on a recent trip, we discovered Breggo Cellars, a relatively new winery in the valley that is making some great Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer.

Breggo Cellars is located just a few miles north of Boonville on a 203-acre farm. The name literally means “sheep” and the property was once home to one of the oldest sheep ranches in Anderson Valley. The folks at Breggo are currently sourcing their fruit from several renowned vineyards in Anderson Valley with a focus on Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. They have recently planted their own estate vineyard and eventually the fruit will come from their own farm.

We particularly enjoyed the Ferrington Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer and Wiley Vineyard Pinot Gris. Any of these wines would make a great pairing with Thanksgiving dinner. Visit to learn more.

Written by Linzi