Monday, January 26, 2009

Super Bowl Finger Foods

Nothing says Super Bowl finger food like spicy chicken wings. Impress your guests with these crispy, sweet chicken wings, adding cayenne pepper to make them extra spicy. Serve them along with our light and flavorful cheese twists to delight your guests. But be warned-you may want to make twice as many as you think you need!

Honey-Glazed Chicken Wings

12 whole chicken wings

1 cup honey

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. salt and 2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 tsp. Oriental Seasoning (or Chinese 5 spice powder)

1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Clean and rinse chicken wings under cold water, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. Slice into the meaty part of each wing several times with a knife. In a large bowl, sprinkle the wings with garlic, salt, pepper and seasonings. Turn wings over in seasonings and let marinade for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator. Heat the grill to medium high heat, and oil the grill. Warm the honey in a small saucepan on the grill’s side burner or in a microwave or stovetop. Grill chicken, turning with tongs until the wings are no longer pink close to the bone (about 15 minutes). During the last 5 minutes, brush several times with honey. Serve immediately with carrot and celery sticks, ranch or dip of choice. Serves 4-6.

Puff Pastry Cheese Twists

2 sheets of ready-made puff pastry

½ cup finely grated cheese

½ cup dry parmesan cheese

Brush egg onto one sheet of pastry and sprinkle with both cheese. Brush the second pastry sheet with egg and place on top of the cheese, pressing the pastry sheets together firmly. Cut pastry in half and cut each half into one inch wide strips. Twist each pastry and place on to a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake at 250 degrees for about 10 minutes until golden brown. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives and extra parmesan. Makes about 20 twists.

By Emily Buller and Karen Grimes

Super Bowl Whites

The typical Super Bowl fare can be a bit tricky for wine pairing. Beer usually comes to mind when you think about nachos, guacamole, onion dip or whatever else tops your list of halftime munchies. But there is no reason that you can’t enjoy a great glass of wine with your chips and dip. In fact, there are many great dry, crisp white wines that are a perfect pairing. This week, I tried out three wines that I’ll be bringing to my Super Bowl party. They are affordable, easy to find and great with anything from salsa to buffalo wings.

A to Z Wineworks 2007 Oregon Pinot Gris
A light and refreshing wine, this Oregon Pinot Gris has intense aromas of tropical fruits (pineapple and mango), nectarines and citrus. It’s a very balanced wine with good acidity. $13/bottle

Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne 2007 Chardonnay
This is a crisp and refreshing Chardonnay from Burgundy with flavors of citrus, apple and pear. The wine spends a bit of time after fermentation in old oak barrels imparting a bit of the richness typical in a Chardonnay. $12/bottle

Kendall Jackson 2007 Vintners Reserve California Riesling
This is a moderately-sweet Riesling that is very well-balanced with aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, peaches and apricots. A great value wine that will pair perfectly with spicy Super Bowl appetizers. $8/bottle

Written by Linzi

Comfort Foods

I only ever order the BarBeQue Chicken at Napa’s BarBersQ restaurant, so maybe I’m not the best person to tell you what the menu is like. Although I can also recommend the sides – Mac & Cheese, Cornbread with Honey Butter (delicious!) and Collard Greens. And my husband always orders the Pulled Pork Sandwich with Cole Slaw and BarBersQ Sauce. But that’s about as far as we get on the menu. I guess it’s because those comfort food dishes are what BarBersQ is all about and it’s hard to stray from your favorite comfort food.

BarBersQ is located in the Bel Aire Plaza in Napa, quite a bit removed from Napa’s downtown, but a now thriving area none the less due to the Whole Foods, Peet’s Coffee and Trader Joe’s that share the plaza. They have a nice patio for the summer and they keep it closed off with heaters in the winter so you can still enjoy the taste of the outdoors even in the middle of winter. The inside is pleasant and has a welcoming bar. It’s not ideal for large groups but makes a great spot for a night out with some friends.

The food is “American Heritage Fare”. What does that mean? As they describe it, they make Memphis style barbeque and casual, comfort food that comes from local purveyors and farmers in Napa and Sonoma. They have a Napa-friendly wine list that isn’t too overpriced, although for a local’s spot in the heart of Napa I wish they didn’t have a $15 corkage fee.

The food is reasonably priced, the service is great with a very attentive staff who create a casual and relaxed atmosphere and the wine list is good. Once you find your comfort dish on the menu, you probably won’t stray too far from it either.

Visit them online at

Written by Linzi

Monday, January 19, 2009

Indulgent (and easy) Brunch

Rainy weekend mornings are the perfect time for a relaxing and indulgent breakfast. This week we share two of our favorite breakfast indulgences – Lemon-Blueberry Muffins and Breakfast Crepes. These dishes can be made together or made as side dishes to a hearty breakfast of eggs, potatoes and bacon. We recommend fruit and whipped cream to fill the crepes, but you can get creative and fill with almost anything – including eggs, potatoes or bacon! And what better way to indulge than to pair with a zesty mimosa made with fresh squeezed orange juice.

Lemon-Blueberry Muffins
1 ¾ cups sifted flour

¼ cup sugar

2 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 egg
¾ cup milk
1/3 cup canola oil

1-2 tsp lemon zest
1 cup fresh (or thawed) blueberries

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine egg, milk and oil. Add to dry ingredients and stir quickly until just moistened. Add lemon zest and blueberries. Grease muffin tins and fill 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Optional: Lemon Glaze
¾ cup confectioners sugar 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice Stir together the confectioners sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle on top of the muffins 3-4 minutes after you remove them from the oven.

Recipe by Linzi

Breakfast Crepes
2 eggs (or 3 egg yolks)

1 ½ cups milk

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. butter (melted)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Fresh fruit and whipped cream

Combine flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and milk with a wire whisk or mixer and add to flour mixture. Whisk until lumps are smooth. Stir in melted butter. Heat an oiled griddle or frying pan to a high heat, then pour about 2 tbsp. of the batter onto the griddle for each crepe. Rotate pan to spread out batter as thin as possible. Brown on both sides and serve with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Recipe will make 10-12 crepes.

Recipe by Karen

Zesty Mimosas

Nothing completes an indulgent Sunday brunch like a Mimosa. The traditional Mimosa is made with three parts Champagne/sparkling wine and two parts orange juice. Yet there are many variations on this classic duo. We’ve uncovered a few of our favorites that pair delightfully with our favorite brunch recipes.

It can’t be confirmed exactly where the Mimosa originated. Some say it was at the Paris Ritz in 1925, others believe it was created in England in 1921 under the name Buck’s Fizz. We do know it got its name from the flowers of the mimosa plant because of their yellow and somewhat frothy appearance.

The Mama Mimosa

This is a classic Mimosa recipe that includes Grand Marnier and fresh raspberries. You begin by making “raspberry ice”. Crumble ½ cup fresh raspberries into an ice cube tray. Fill the tray with water and freeze. To make the Mimosa, fill your glass with three parts Champagne/sparkling wine and 2 parts orange juice, leaving a little bit of room at the top. Add 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier and stir gently. Put 1-2 raspberry ice cubes in your glass.

Passion Fruit Mimosa

You can substitute the orange juice in a Mimosa with just about anything. A classic substitute is passion fruit juice. We also like tangerine juice (for a little zing), grapefruit juice or cranberry juice. Always use the same proportions of Champagne/sparkling wine to juice as the traditional recipe. Garnish with orange slices or strawberries.

Virgin Mimosas

You can make a non-alcoholic version of the drink with sparkling water or lemon-lime soda. Make it just like you would a traditional mimosa, substituting the alcohol for the sparkling water or lemon-lime soda.

Written by Linzi

Coffee Cafe

When I first moved to San Francisco, I seemed to always be lost in some random neighborhood. My only saving grace was a local coffee shop. It was there I would take refuge with a window seat, my coffee drink and some delicious baked good. Ultimately, I discovered this was the best way for me to learn my way around the city.

I started learning the city by way of coffee café – Blue Bottle Coffee in Hayes Valley, makes the strongest, most interesting cup of coffee. I would peruse the unique boutiques as I enjoyed every last drop. Tartine in the Mission, has the most sinfully delicious coconut, passion fruit cake, which gave me enough energy to navigate the seemingly endless streets of people, shopping and restaurants.

Now that I have lived here for five years, I still find myself deciding on how to spend my free time, by way of my taste buds. Next time you find yourself with a free afternoon, check out one of my neighborhood favorites.

Blue Bottle Coffee - 315 Linden St, just West of Gough between Hayes and Fell St.
Tartine Bakery – 600 Guerrero St, on the corner of 18th

Written by Nathalie Spelman

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winter Dishes on the Lighter Side

A few seasonal salad ingredients to look for this winter include fruits such as apples, oranges and cranberries and vegetables such as fennel and winter greens. We have combined several of these into a scrumptious and healthy salad that is sure to get your New Year’s Resolution off to a good start. Combine it with our light and flavorful orange and honey mustard chicken and you have a dinner perfect for the season (and perfectly seasoned).

Spinach-Apple Salad with Pine Nuts and Dried Cranberries

Balsamic Vinaigrette

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¾ cup olive oil

½ onion or 2 shallots, finely chopped

Salt and fresh ground pepper


12 oz. spinach

2 apples, cored and thinly sliced

1 cup diced fennel

6 cups spinach

½ lb crumbled blue cheese

¼ cup pine nuts

¼ cup cranberries

Toss vinaigrette with salad greens and fennel, and top with sliced apples, pine nuts (toasted in oven for 2-3 minutes is optional), dried cranberries, and crumbled blue cheese. Serves about 6.

Orange and Honey-Mustard Glazed Chicken

6 boneless chicken breasts

1 ½ tbsp. whole-grain mustard

1 ½ cups orange juice

3 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 orange zest

Mint sprigs or parsley to garnish

Mix orange juice, mustard, and honey together in a bowl. Pour over chicken and place chicken in fridge to marinate for about 15 minutes (or as long as necessary). In a large pan, heat oil on medium and add chicken. Cook chicken on medium heat until golden brown. Pour remaining marinade over chicken and cook on low for about 15 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink in the center. Grate orange over the chicken, then add salt and pepper and chopped mint or parsley to garnish. Serves about 6.

Recipes by Chef Emily Buller and Karen

Wine Shops for Wine Lovers

Are you tired of browsing the wine shelves at your local grocery store and not finding anything new or exciting? There are many great boutique wine shops with knowledgeable staff that can help you find just the wine you are looking for, whether that’s the perfect wine for your dinner party or just a new wine for any occasion. Small wine shops offer you the ability to discover rare and interesting wines that you probably wouldn’t otherwise come across. The Bay Area is full of great wine shops. Here are a few of our favorites but we know there are a lot more great shops out there. If you have a favorite wine shop, leave us a comment and let us know about it. We’d love to hear from you.

Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant/Oxbow Wine Merchant – owners Debbie Zachareas and Peter Granoff have created a very hands-on environment in their two stores. The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant is located in the San Francisco Ferry Plaza and their second store is now located in Napa’s Oxbow Market. Both stores have a bar for tasting wines, ordering food and socializing. There are always at least 15 or 20 wines available at the bar by-the-glass or by-the-bottle.

Groezinger Wine Merchants – this small, irreverent wine shop is located in the town of Yountville. They owners focus on small, boutique offerings primarily from Napa and Sonoma but also source many wines from throughout the world. Groezinger’s was founded in 1970, making it one of the oldest boutique wine shops in the Napa Valley.

Wine Garage – you would drive right by this wine shop located in an old garage if you didn’t know its location just outside of downtown Calistoga on Highway 29. Owners Todd and Joy Miller have carved out a niche in the usually pricey Napa Valley to serve locals and tourists looking for great wines that don’t break the bank. All the wines in the store are under $25 and they have a great selection of Napa wines. There wine club is also worth checking out – 6 wines for $100 shipped six times per year. You can’t beat that.

The Wine Exchange of Sonoma – located on the Sonoma Town Plaza, this shop offers a great selection of wines from Sonoma and Napa vintners. They have a tasting bar with a large selection of wine, bottled beer and draft beer that is open every day. They also offer a great wine club that you can sign up for in the store or online.

Vintage Wine & Spirits – located in downtown Mill Valley, this wine shop has a great selection of wines from all over the world. They’ve been in the same spot for over 50 years and can provide a firsthand recommendation on all of their wines. Their web site makes it easy to view their offerings and if you are looking for more than just wine, they also have a great selection of spirits.

The Jug Shop – the Jug Shop is always a favorite for San Francisco wine shops. It’s been a destination for wine lovers since 1965 and offers a huge selection of wine from all over the world, with a special emphasis on Italy, Australia and New Zealand. The staff has been there for a long time and are extremely knowledgeable. Check out one of their frequent in-store tastings. They often have winemakers and vintners from around the world join them to pour their wines.

Written by Linzi

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

One delicious winter vegetable, the cauliflower, is often just an overlooked salad addition. However, there are a number of different dishes you can create with this versatile veggie. Cauliflower is part of the cabbage family and comes in a variety of colors— white, green and purple, and is packed with vitamin C and iron. So go ahead and enjoy a bowl of creamy cauliflower soup on a cold winter night!

1 head of cauliflower

5 cups vegetable broth

1 cup white wine

½ clove garlic

½ tsp. ground ginger

1 cup whipping cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Chives, chopped (to garnish)

Parmesan cheese (to garnish)

Chop cauliflower and add to vegetable broth in a large pot. Cook on medium high heat. Add garlic and cook until tender (about 30 minutes). Using a hand blender or food processor, puree the soup until thick and creamy. Add wine, whipping cream, ground ginger and salt and pepper to taste. Top with crostini (optional), chives and Parmesan cheese. Serves 6-8.

Recipe by Chef Emily Buller