Wine tastings are good.

This new little spot opened up near me called 320 Wine Lounge on La Brea and I can happily report that I’ve had a few lovely evenings there. They have good service and a great wine list.

This is a serve yourself tasting lounge… in other words, that means you have to work for your pours. Which, if you’re in the mood and have the energy, is great. My friend Maggie and I had zero desire after a long day to have to get up and refill our glasses every 10 seconds to try a new wine. So we opted for the bottle menu. Saves us time and well, let’s be honest, 4 glasses is just what a gal needs to gosssip about men, friends and life, catch up on work drama and just relax. The manager and I start discussing some wines and I express my interest the Jaffurs Petite Sirah (which happens to be amazing and I know from personal experience because I’m a member of their wine club 🙂 ). Of course, they’re out. Boooooo

Low and behold, he tells me about a wine tasting event they’re having a couple weeks later with the Jaffurs wine makers. “They’ll be pouring new releases and some library wines.”  Well… “where do I sign up!?” was my only response.

Starting with some white

A couple weeks later my girls Jen and Mags joined me for an evening of Jaffurs wines w/food pairings (according to the invite).  When we arrive (a couple minutes late) the lecture is still being given, but thankfully they weren’t waiting to pour until it was over.  We started with the Grenache Blanc. It’s lovely, light and crisp… perfect for a hot day. There are some crackers on the table… that’s can’t be the ‘pairings’ the invite stated.

Sipping and listening... sorta 😉

Next they bring out the Viognier and the Roussanne… both lovely, but the Grenache is my fav out of those. Next we get nice pours of a Syrah, a Petite Sirah and then a Mourvedre…and the pours kept coming!

Then the Upslope and the library wines are starting to pour… YUM!!! These were so good. I have a bottle up the Upslope that I purchased a while back… hadn’t tasted it upon purchase, but I just knew it’d amazing. Sure enough, it was just as I’d imagined. Delish!

the Upslope

Now at this point we’re on glass 203 of this tasting and I’m still looking for the food pairing part of this evening…they were great pours and they kept coming… almost too fast, but all this and no food? Can’t be. The last of the library pours are happening and we’re enjoying every sip.

Jen has a moment captured on a paper placemat

Finally we are told thanks and the tasting is over… no food. Now, I’m not saying this evening sucked by any means, but if you’re  pouring that much wine that quickly and the invite says “…and food pairings” then you better well give the food pairings!

Over all still great wines… just next time sort out the balance when an event like this happens. It’s sorta important!

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Honestly, the BEST braised short ribs I’ve ever made…it’s true.

I’m not gonna lie, I love making braised short ribs. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall… these meaty bites never fail. They make a kitchen and the entire house smell amazing. They are simple, but they MUST be bff’d with some gooooooood red wine. They’re easy, they need few dishes and last but not least, one short rib is a meal… as long as it has a very yummy little bit of (personal opinion) buttery, milky carb to present a united front.

People, braised short ribs are SOOOOOO easy. They really are. Anyone can do this. Cut up some veggies, quick browning of some meat pieces and pour some liquids into a french/dutch oven. Let it cook for hours. Voila! Like I said I’ve been making braised short ribs for years and have been following some pretty basic recipes until today.

I woke up craving the dish and wanted some amazing smashed potatoes to go with. Back story: I had recently acquired this new silly nerd gadget… the iPad.

What can this iPad do for me?

I was reading a magazine article and saw that one of my old go-to sites (on my laptop) Epicurious.com had an iPad (probably something I should get used to) app. I downloaded it and jumped right in. I was able to search by ingredients, what I have in my fridge, by course I’d like to serve, or just scroll by ‘new’. I really loved the part that set up the shopping list for me. Just so happened that I defrosted some short ribs yesterday and had decided to check out my new ‘app’ to see if I could find a new recipe. Sure enough Daniel Boulud’s Short Ribs popped up after a couple pages. Hello!!

So the braising process begins:

the veggies lightly browning

The recipe calls for the makings for 8, but I only needed the makings for 2…maybe some leftovers for lunch would be nice. I 1/3’d the recipe…sorta 😉 For the most part I followed the instructions, just the portions were changed:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stock
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves

TI used 1 bottle of red wine, 1 bay leaf and a couple thyme and parsley sprigs. Can’t argue with the delightful aromatics of reduced red wine while shallots and garlic are browning. Time to braise the short ribs

Braised meats... yum!

Next we put the meat, reduced wine, broth and veggies… bring to a boil and get ready to throw the dish in the over at 350 for 2 1/2 hours.

Let the braising begin!

Now for those who support us throughout our efforts, they should also get a small token of appreciation. It’s nice to have the line cooks happy:

Who got a yummy treat??

So the best part about cooking short ribs is planning what is going to go with it. I really want to have a salad with all this meat and richness so I turn to a fav that my fabu neighbor Kath has me hooked on. It’s a shallot dressing that will seriously change your salad making world. And, it’s EASY!

  • mince a shallot or two
  • macerate above in 2T or more white wine vinegar for at least 5 minutes
  • add: zest of a lemon juice from 1/2 – 1 lemon depending on how lemony you want
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • adjust seasonings to taste.

I tossed it w/spinach, avocado and a beautiful heirloom tomato. Then I topped it off with an amazing feta ball that sits in olive oil and spices for some time. Unreal (you can find this at the farmers market).

Starter salad w/amazing shallot dressing

The recipe paired this with a ‘celery duo’ but I didn’t feel like complicating my morning. After all, living in LA allows you to hike Runyon Canyon in the early morning and 2 hours later get in a quick game of tennis at the La Cienega Tennis Center. On my sweaty way home and quick stop off at Whole Foods I decided on something simple: small fingerling potatoes mashed with a little butter, milk and S&P.

The reduction sauce over the meat and potatoes was amazing. I will make this SO many times over. Like I said, this was one of the BEST braised short rib recipes I’ve ever had. Thanks iPat and Daniel Boulud.

Look at that reduction!!

My overall recommendation is: Braised Meat People!! Embrace It!! 🙂 Or just start to look forward to fall meals that don’t have to be left for just Fall.

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Heirlooms scream bruschetta in my ears

What is it about these amazing and vibrant colored tommies that hit the market this time of year? It’s like a rainbow of plump, juicy and tasty veggies that can make almost any dish just that much prettier!

Rainbow of tomatoes

And really, this image only shows 3 types, some fresh picked basil and home grown lemon from my mom and dad’s tree. That’s the beauty of making bruschetta, you only need a few ingredients.  I like to mix up my chopped tomatoes, julienned basil, diced shallots (this is my own take cause I love shallots) in a bowl. I squeeze a little fresh lemon juice, splash w/some good olive oil and S&P.

Get in the mix!

Now you might ask “Where’s the garlic?” (if you use garlic in your bruschetta). I like to do something a little different here. I like to sauté some diced garlic quickly in some olive oil and butter and then I place the fresh bought sourdough slices (I buy baguettes from the La Brea bakery when possible.) right into the pan to soak up the oil/butter infused garlic. Get both sides nice and golden and crispy then lay the mix right over it…

Soaking up the juices

Once it’s ready to eat I plate with a drizzle of really really good balsamic vinaigrette and if I have some, sprinkle some fresh feta over it.

Time to eat!

I have to say this was so dang yummy… 2 slices piled on with this mix was almost not enough. At least it’s the middle of summer and plenty more amazing veggies to be eaten!

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Do you shop the markets like me?

Meaning… do you buy stuff ‘just in case you might want to make something with it’ like that? I swear, it’s nice to have a stocked fridge, but sometimes shopping hungry or just in the mood to cook all sorts of stuff makes you buy items that you just don’t need. Well, not in this case.

Who doesn’t like cheeses and cured meats? If you’re one of those people, you might as well stop reading this blog now. They will be repeat characters.

I’m sure if it was the blogger pizza oven party, Gwyneth’s blog about her pizza oven or what, but I came home the other night and could only think of one thing to make. Brick oven pizza. One problem, no brick oven in my cute little apartment. Nor did I have pizza dough at the ready. Improvise time!

I buy the flat bread from the Greek guys at the farmer’s market every Sunday, it’s so good! I use it for sandwiches, wraps, toasted for hummus and now, another way to devour the delish item. Pizza! I had to see what ingredients I had tho. A few slices of coppa left over, some provolone, some feta and I often buy this olive/veggie marinade at the olive stand at Whole Foods. Such a yummy snack to have around so I grabbed that too. I took the flat bread, drizzled some nice olive oil, layered the provolone and then the coppa. Clearly a slice or two had to be tested … just in case 😉

yuuuuuummmmm

Let’s see, next I grabbed the whole foods veggie/olive marinade salad thing and took out all the olives and a couple of the veggies. Sliced ’em up and sprinkled them around. Last I took the fresh feta and crumbled that over the top. A certain 4 legged creature started to smell the goods coming together and had to wander over a little piece of coppa.

official food tester

ready for my 'faux brick oven'

I was hungry and wanted food fast. Decided on my little toaster oven. I swear, those things come in handy when you don’t feel like waiting for the big oven to heat up. In I throw it with just a quick drizzle of a little more olive oil. About 10 minutes later at about 400 I pulled this nugget of delicousness out.

20 minute dinner

This totally hit the spot for a quick and easy dinner. Sometimes you just gotta be a little creative in the kitchen! Obviously isn’t brain surgery to put this together, but again, it was about having random ingredients and taking a minute to see what you can put together. Try it!

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Trying as many recipes as I can!

When my sister comes to visit from Boston she’s been bringing us some recipe booklets that she’s found at her local Whole Paycheck (or officially known as Whole Foods). They’re awesome and the last one she brought out for my mom, other sister and I contained so many recipes that looked amazing. With the exception of a couple that involved shrimp…I don’t like shrimp.

30 Minute Suppers

Now they might have this at my W.F. but I haven’t been able to find it. You can probably go the site for Cooks Illustrated and order them, but I’m enjoying the fun gifts from my sister.

I started by making a couple dishes one night when a few friends were gathered for some yummy wine and food. I had a grand plan of 2 apps and 1 entree, but after the first 2 apps we were stuffed!

Started with the stromboli recipe. I had never made it but it couldn’t have been easier. I will say that most of these recipes do take longer than 30 minutes, realistically.

Golden perfection

I should say something right now about the way I cook; I don’t measure very often. I use the ingredients that are called for, but I might use a bit more or a bit less of something depending on my level of love (or lack of) for it.

Take a bag of pizza dough from W.F. (or wherever), and quarter it. Take one of the quarters and roll it out. Layer some provolone, dry salami, capo, jarred red peppers and top with a layer of parm. Roll it up and brush a beaten egg over the dough. Last, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Throw it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake it 375 for around 25 mins…until it’s golden like the picture. Let it sit for a moment and then slice it up and pass.

melted cheese and cured meat in a perfectly baked crust - is there anything better?

The instructions called for marinara sauce for dipping, but it honestly didn’t need it. So I left it out.

For the second app I made the chicken tortilla pizza. This was actually done in under 30 mins. Cook up some black refried beans with some chopped cilantro. Spread this over the tortilla leaving a little boarder on the edges. Shred some chicken and layer that next over the beans. Sprinkle some chopped pickled jalapenos on top. Bake at 350 on a greased cookie sheet for about 12 minutes until cheese melts. As that is cooking, mix some sour cream with a little lemon zest, some fresh lemon juice, S&P and some more chopped cilantro.  Dollop some of the sour cream mix over the pizza and a little extra cilantro, slice and serve!

Chricken Tortilla Pizza

I didn’t get my camera out soon enough and it was 1/2 gone in about 2 seconds. Hope this picture gets you the idea.

Since we were all full from those 2 dishes, my friend Jen and I decided to save the Greek meatballs w/lemon orzo for the next night. Now, this recipe claimed it took 3 minutes for the meatballs to cook… lies. It took about 8 at least.

First step is getting the fresh bread crumbs. 2 slices of high quality white bread (I used a sourdough loaf and removed the crust), rip into small pieces and smash it up with a fork until almost a bread crumb texture. In a larger bowl, take about 1 1/2lbs ground beef  and mix with about 1/2 C plain Greek yogurt, chopped white onion, S&P and your smashed bread crumbs. Last, roll them into rounds about 1 1/2 inch in diameter. Heat up some canola oil and cook in batches.

Meatballs-a-cooking

As those are cooking make the orzo. I think we just made a cup of dry orzo and that was fine for 2 and had some leftovers. This recipe for sure makes WAY more meatballs than orzo to match, so keep that in mind. Toss your cooked orzo with some OO, lemon zest, some fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh oregano and S&P. Pile on a few ‘balls over the orzo and sprinkle with fresh feta. This picture didn’t do this dish justice. This and the stromboli are my favs so far.

Greek meatballs over lemon orzo

Last I made the spicy pork stir fry with snow peas, spinach and mushrooms. Heat some oil in a large pan and cook the mushrooms until tender. This recipe called for a pork tenderloin, but I didn’t have it. I had some sliced pork in the freezer, so I just cooked those up quickly, but made sure they were medium rare since the pork would cook more once added to the stir fry.  Add some chopped garlic, ginger, 1/4 C. of hoisin sauce and about a C. of chicken broth and a splash of soy sauce. Cook the sauce down a little. When all is cooked nicely, add a couple cups of fresh baby spinach and when wilted, serve over some brown rice (or whatever rice you want).

Stir fry is ready!

So, I’m going to keep going through this recipe book and I’ll let you know what else comes out of it. Happy cooking!

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A food blogger event…. I had no idea!!

I had no idea what i was getting into with starting a food blog. I had no idea that there were ‘events’ for food bloggers and that there is a food blogger ‘clique’ that you may or may not get into. These people are serious about their food and their opinions, and you know what? They’re deciding the fate of so many restaurants and chefs these days because we’re listening to them! Amazing… just amazing to me. So here is my first food blogger event post… hope I make these very talented and opinionated (and WAY more skilled & advanced than myself) bloggers proud.

Last night my dear friend Anne who happens to be a talented writer & food blogger (also old college roommate) put together an event for a wood fired oven and Brazilian bbq place called Wildwood in Eagle Rock. She invited food bloggers that she’s met in person and some only online through blogging and following to come and enjoy an evening of fresh prepared Brazilian bbq and wood fired pizzas.

I brought my fellow food loving friend, Jen, along and had told her that I volunteered us to get to work should Anne need some extra hands around the event. We arrived, grabbed a glass of wine and looked around… lovely outdoor patio, nice kitchen set up with the oven and rotisserie all set… but no food was to be seen.

About an hour after the requested arrival time the bbq started up with skewered lamb, beef and pork.

We started to see a couple starter pizzas come out from the kitchen… the crust was amazingly yummy!  Then the big boys hit the counter… braised pork belly and short ribs… bbq’d pork butt – probably my favorite meat of the evening.

shredded braised short rib

marinated pork butt

pork belly

But the food wasn’t coming fast enough for the 40 or so people there that came hungry. We hit a lull with food coming out. After the meats were expected the amazing variety of pizzas we’d been promised. Suddenly, after chatting with one of the guys working the event, he decided to pull Jen and I into the kitchen and help out. Yes, we got back there and got to work. Worked with the lovely gal rolling out the dough and topping the pizzas, she’d hand them off to me to throw into the oven. I had never cooked in a wood fired oven! I ended up cooking the pizzas and Jen served them. The food came out quickly and just totally delicious. Check out my handy work:

gotta keep an eye on these, they cook fast!

short rib pizza

tomato, basil & mozzarella

pork cheek pizza

if you can't take the heat, get out the kitchen!

This event turned out be a success… it was a little rocky at first but I think in the end people left full and satisfied. And I learned how to cook in a wood fired oven! Best training is getting thrown into the task. Had a blast and thanks Anne!

If you want to rent the space or take cooking classes from Michael contact him here: http://www.wildwoodovens.com/

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Springtime treats… they’re worth the fuss!

English peas, pea tendrils and fava beans… I wish we could enjoy these treats year round. Right now you can find them at your local farmers market, but since they’re days are limited, I buy them every weekend until they’re no longer!

I hit the Beverly Hills one on Sundays and it’s always a packed scene. There I am browsing and listening to fellow shoppers discuss recipes and thoughts on ways to cook certain items, I turn and am standing next to Wolfgang Puck (a regular on Sundays). Always a treat, we discuss leafy greens and shucking peas and how it’s time consuming. Nothing too life changing but you just feel the inspiration standing next to a great like that. So I grab some greens and head home.

My eyes are WAY bigger than my stomach when it comes to all these beautiful veggies. How do you eat all of this soon after you buy it? You don’t want it to go bad! I end up making many different sautes and stir fries for lunches and dinners.

The first saute I made was a crimini mushroom and pea tendril saute. I was so easy! Of course, since they were there, I grabbed some fresh peas to toss in as well.

A simple saute of spring time goods

This followed a recipe I found epicurious.com and then just added my own twist.

  • butter
  • thinly sliced leeks
  • some garlic
  • mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • bunches of pea tendrils

Saute the leek in the butter (yum!) until soft. Add garlic and ‘shrooms until browned. Toss in the pea tendrils and continue cooking until wilted. In the meantime I did a REALLY quick blanch of the peas I had shucked and then tossed those in last so they kept their crunch.

The next item I had to make sure I didn’t let go to waste were the fava beans I had grabbed. I ended up throwing together a salad with some baby spinach, fresh heirloom tommies, some grilled chicken I had in the fridge, sliced avocado with sauteed fava beans tossed in a shallot vinaigrette. It was a random mix of flavors, but it worked! I did saute the favas quickly in EVOO, S&P and some red pepper flakes.

Springtime salad!

It was almost too pretty to eat, but I got over that pretty quick. I still have some green garlic, leeks and kale to devour pretty soon. Not sure what I want to do w/those just yet but I’m sure I’ll think of something! I’ll probably even let you know 🙂

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Possibly the cutest trench ever!

A few days before quitting my job I decided to have one final shopping spree knowing it wouldn’t be the smartest thing to spend needlessly without a paycheck coming in post quit. Figured I’d stock up on some cute spring-into-summer outfits for the next gig.

Now, for the past few years, I have to say that the clothing at Nordstrom has not been that great. Every time I went I found nothing. So frustrating. I shop shoes and make up at Nordy’s and that’s been about it for a long time. Until recently! Giving it another shot one afternoon I wondered upstairs (with zero expectation) only to be greeted by a lovely young personal shopper. Very friendly and dressed well… I thought ‘alright, let’s see what she’s gonna show me’.  I don’t know if they got a new buyer or what, but there are some REALLY cute items up in that clothing department!

Fabu personal shopper, Carrie, and I trotted all over that floor finding all sorts of fun outfits and items to play with. And then I came upon this…..

BCBG trench

The picture doesn’t do this fabu piece justice, but trust me, if you find it try it on and take it home. This is the most feminine and stylish trench I’ve seen in a long long time and it just looks SO good on! The best part? Of course it’s darling with dressy pieces like slacks, boots or heels… but my favorite way to wear it is over jeans, a white t-shirt and of course a cute pair of flip flops! It just adds that little extra something to an otherwise simple ensemble.

 

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Celebrate all you want… the dog still needs to be taken out early the next morning

So, there are many reason to celebrate… birthdays, babies, anniversaries, days that end in ‘y’… you get my drift.  Or you can just have the girls over for some martinis (I’ll blog about those at another point!)  and wine.

Why does that last bottle of wine always seem like ‘such’ a good idea!?? At least it was a Jaffurs Mourvédre. Next time you’re in Santa Barbara please make a point to go taste wine at Jaffurs. It’s right downtown and delish! If you’re really up for it you look up the Urban Wine Trail … some great wineries to check out. Municipal is also a fav!

Back the point of this blog… sipping yummy wines til very late is very fun, but the next morning isn’t always. Especially since my darling little dog still wakes up bright and early and needs to be walked. I live in an apartment, a wonderfully big and beautiful apartment, but an apartment none-the-less. So up I went this morning to the park with a slight pain in my head and sudden craving for coffee with a pinch of cinnamon and breakfast sandwich.

My breakfast sandwich

Yes, it’s a bit blurry, but you get the point. And I’m still learning how to shoot food.

The best part of hitting the Farmers Market every Sunday morning is you have these items on hand! It’s Spring and many amazing veggies and fruits are available. I always have to hit the heirloom tomato lady and the avocado guy.  The egg guy is also a must if he’s there!

I keep some sesame bagels in the freezer for instances just like this. This is easy and can be done on any given day.

  • Fry up a piece of bacon
  • slice a couple pieces of avocado
  • slice some tomato
  • slice some cheddar cheese
  • toast a bagel and melt some cheese on one 1/2
  • fry an egg over easy so you get some nice runny yolk
  • stack it up

And that’s it! If you have some prosciutto use that instead of the bacon. So many options!

Off for a hike to sweat some of this wine out!

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My first post… thought it should be about food, of course!

I will promise to take better pix, but this is my first post, so please cut me a little slack.

On a visit to Los Gatos to see my folks one weekend, we went to this amazing little italian restaurant in Campbell that had opened recently, Tigelleria Organic Restaurant. Everything was amazing, but what I’ve had to attempt to recreate was the spinach salad.

Tigelleria Spinach Salad recreation

It was so simple, but so full of flavor! Baby spinach tossed with a light vinaigrette dressing, drops of pesto around the dish, fresh peas, shaved parm and a really really good balsamic dripped over it.

 

I think the real trick here is the homemade pesto and the balsamic vinegar that you use. I also recommend a quick blanch of the peas, keep them crunchy, but a quick hot water bath never hurts. The light vinaigrette was just a splash of EVOO, fresh lemon juice and some S&P.

For the pesto I used walnuts instead of pine nuts:

  • 1 bunch of basil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • about 1/4 cup or so of grated (good) parm
  • about1/4 cup of toasted walnuts ( I did a quick toast of these)
  • S&P pinches
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

Throw it all into a blender and add olive oil until it’s a nice consistency.

Stack it all on a salad plate and voila!

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