Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits

From the NY Times

strawberrytiramisu.jpg

I hadn’t thought of making tiramisù since the 1990s when it was all the rage, but in March friends asked me to bring dessert to their party, and it came to mind. Fashionable or not, it’s perfect for a crowd but also foolproof enough to assemble with my toddler daughter underfoot. It was a hit, extremely satisfying in a creamy, trifle-esque kind of way, yet more sophisticated thanks to the espresso and shot of sambuca moistening the layers.

I filed the recipe under “good for hungry hordes,” and planned to fish it out for a weekend away with friends. But as that weekend drew closer, I reconsidered. Baskets of plump, scarlet strawberries had finally appeared at the farmers’ market, and I really wanted to make them the focal point of dessert.

The creamy mascarpone and ladyfinger layers in tiramisù are a natural with strawberries. But the espresso is too overbearing to match well with the sweet fruit. All I had to do was swap out the liquid. It was early evening when all this pondering was going on, so naturally my mind leaped to the coming cocktail hour. What would be a good, boozy pairing with strawberries?

Read article...

coffee2A coffee farmer shared with me that the most injury prone job picking coffee involves climbing.  When one hand is holding the tree and the other a machete--what are you left with to swat the bugs?  

Last March I traveled to a coffee plantation in Nicaragua to help run a volunteer medical and dental clinic for the workers, their families, and the villagers.  The team set up shop in an open-air church and saw 1,200 patients in a week.  Babies with distended bellies from parasites, respiratory infections, decayed teeth, dehydration.  Patients lined up.  Machete wounds were common.  One involved a bee.

I was overwhelmed by the emotion of it--watching some brave person getting teeth pulled, barely betraying their pain.  I would walk out to the rainforest and indulge in a good cry.  I expected the week to be hard--what surprised me was the joy.  Despite the intense emotions, I also laughed harder that week than I could remember doing for a long time.  (Sometimes because the very earnest nurses were so bad at Spanish.  Also there was a broken toilet seat incident.)  It's no secret.  Volunteering feeds the soul.  

Read more ...

whitewine.jpgAfter about a decade of studying and drinking wine, I've become the de facto "expert" amongst our group of friends. Which is to say I've read more wine books, taken more classes and wine tasted in more regions than them, but what I've learned is just the tip of the wine iceberg. That being said, since I have this website, I get asked a lot of questions about wine, but there are two that always seem to come up with the answers usually engendering surprise.

1) What are my favorite Napa wineries?

and

2) Do you really LOVE white wine? Really?

My response that I don't make a pilgrimage to Napa several times a year is akin to saying something like "I hate puppies." The shocked looks are quite amusing to me. I've been all over California, tasting in every region where wine is grown, including Napa, yet there are just other places I'd rather go. I've come up with an equation that should explain this apparent break down in my mental faculties.

(Too far away x snotty attitude + $$$$ bottle price = Unhappy Wine Traveler)

Read more ...

vanillateaI'm a tea drinker and I love experimenting with it as an ingredient. I make hot chocolate with tea and use tea to smoke chicken. But I have to admit, I only heard the term cambric to describe tea made with milk, such as chai, at an event recently at the T-We Tea Shop hosted by the California Milk Processor Board. It's an old fashioned term for a combination of tea, milk and sugar often served to children. But that doesn't mean you can't make it into something enticing for adults.

The certified tea specialist and proprietor Christopher Coccagna made a number of wonderful drinks for Winter with tea and milk. Some of the drinks had alcohol in them and others didn't. Some used herbal teas and some used black teas. Some will definitely perk you up while others are perfect as a relaxing nightcap. There's really something for everyone, even kids and teetotalers. Check out the recipes for all kinds of luscious tea and milk drinks including Vanilla Mint Cambric, Lavender London Fog Latte and White Russian Caravan at GotMilk.

Read more ...

colatura-bottle-blog.jpgWhen you live, breathe, eat and sleep food, it can sometimes be hard to muster excitement. This doesn’t mean I’ve grown weary of food and all it involves, it just means that it takes a little extra or a tiny bit of sumthin’ sumthin’ to really knock my socks off. Not that they need constant knocking off. They don’t. I’m happy with plain most of the time.

The pleasures of food and discovery happen when you least expect it. I can remember a moment 20 years ago when I had my first Meyer lemon and I thought the earth would swallow itself. My mind was expanding with each taste of that glorious citrus and I knew life would never be the same. The same can be said of having Jamon Iberico de bellota, a proper supplì, even Wisconsin cheese curds for the very first time. I can count those moments on one hand.

Last month in Italy I had another one of those moments at dinner. It was a fish dish with a very simple aioli––or so I thought. It turns out that the aioli was made with Colatura, an extremely flavorful Italian condiment made from fish and salt. My eyes must have given my excitement away as our dinner neighbor Fabio looked at me and said “It’s Colatura. There’s Colatura in here.” He explained how it’s made, telling me fish sauce has been used for thousands of years in Italy.

Read more ...