Monday, September 14, 2009

Spiced Pear Pie

The popularity of the pear dates back to ancient times. While the Greek poet Homer referred to pears as a “gift of the gods,” others were developing new varieties of cultivated pears in Rome. Over the years, hundreds of different varieties have been introduced. Today the Bartlett pear is the most popular variety in the United States.

The Health benefits of pears are numerous too. They are rich in vitamin C, with antioxidant properties and filled with fiber. Studies have also shown that eating pears helps protenct women against breast cancer, lowers blood pressure and may reduce the chances of a stoke, and good for colon heath—to name just a few! So Homer was right on track—a true gift from the gods!

Pie Crust

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter

¼ cup ice water

Sift flour and salt together. Cut the chilled butter and margarine into small bits and add to the flour. Work flour and butter together. Add ice water slowly to the pastry, and press pastry together into a ball. Chill dough for at least one hour.

Pear Mixture

4-5 medium sized pears, sliced

½ cup sugar

1 ½ tbsp. flour

½ cup sugar

½ tbsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

This recipe makes one 9-inch pie. Make pie dough and chill for at least one hour. Roll out dough and place into pie pan. Fill pie shell with sliced pears. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon and dot with butter. Roll out remaining pastry and cover and cover the pastry top, seal and crimp rim, then slice a few vents on the top. Bake pie for 45 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned.

Smells pee?

Wine descriptions are often filled with good sounding, yummy words like tropical fruit, chocolate, citrus, floral. But there is another set of descriptors in the world of wine that you may not want to think exist in your glass. Words like sweat, barnyard and yes, even cat pee often make their way into wine descriptions. Do these descriptors indicate a bad wine? And do we really have to think about that putrid smell of cat pee before enjoying our glass of wine?

Wine descriptors are numerous and allow tasters to work with a common vocabulary to describe the aromas, flavors and texture of a wine. Descriptors can vary significantly from taster to taster. We will all taste a wine in a slightly different way. But the descriptors allow us to put into words what we are experiencing.

Many wine descriptors are easy to grasp and conceptualize, especially if you have spent any time in a kitchen. Words like buttery, citrus, tropical, dark berry and chocolate are pretty straightforward. It gets a little more complicated when you get to descriptors like clean, accessible, earthy and full. These words might mean something slightly different to each taster but they typically can get tasters to a common ground. But what about words like cat pee and sweat? What do they mean and can they possibly indicate anything good about a wine?

Cat pee, sweat and barnyard are words you’ll actually hear quite often if you spend a lot of time reading wine descriptions. New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are wonderfully crisp, vibrant wines with great fruit aromas and flavors. Yet you will often hear sweat and cat pee when describing a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. They don’t indicate anything bad about the wine, just descriptions that help find a common ground for describing the taste of these distinct wines.

Wine descriptors can be a lot of fun and very useful when describing wine. Definitely use lots of ripe fruit, citrus and chocolate descriptors but don’t hesitate to throw in a cat pee now and then.

Events on the Slower Side

Slow food is more than just a way of eating—it is a way of living. The Slow Food movement is growing in popularity as more people around the world find pleasure in cooking food in a way that is as committed to the community and the environment as it is to our own health.

The Slow Food USA seeks to create a dramatic and lasting change in the food system by reconnecting people with the plants, animals, soils and water that produce it. Slow Food wants to ensure equality, sustainability and pleasure in the food we eat. Now more than ever, the Slow Food movement is popping up all around Napa and Sonoma County. Check out a couple of upcoming events with a focus on local, sustainable eating.

Be sure not to miss the Slow Food event at the historic Bale Grist Mill in St. Helena. Co-hosted by the Napa Valley Slow Food and the California State Parks, this event will include a meal prepared with local foods by the Silverado Brewing Company featuring a grain fed Mule Foot Hog, Napa Valley wines, specially brewed “Bale Ale”. There will also be a silent auction and tours and demonstrations of the Grist Mill with Miller Eric Gerhardt. All the proceeds from this events will help keep the much-loved Bale Grist open for others to enjoy.

Also, join the Clif Family Farm as they host a farm party benefit that promises to be an entertaining afternoon filled with food, wine and music. Owners Gary and Kit Erickson and winemaker Sarah Gott will be there to share wood-fired pizzas and delicious food straight from the gardens. There will be farm tours and neighboring wineries pouring including Clark-Claudon Vineyards. The proceeds from the event will benefit The Community Alliance with Family Farmers. The winery is located in Pope Valley, about 15 minutes outside of St. Helena. For more information visit and to purchase tickets