Monthly Archives: February 2011

The obsessor’s wine of choice: PINOT NOIR

The International Celebration of Pinot Noir in McMinnville, Oregon

Pinot Noir is a little like that old boyfriend whose memory you can’t seem to shake.  Sure, you’ve moved on – you’re TOTALLY into Rhones, now – but you’d be lying if you said you don’t reminisce about Pinot all the time every now and then. 

And what makes Pinot Noir the obsessor’s wine of choice?  This is a well-worn question.  Pinot is notoriously difficult to grow and vinify, and what’s worse, it rarely comes out of the bottle as anything better than average.  But when it does?  Oh, baby.  It’s sort of like flying first class.  Once you do it, you can never go back to coach.  The food-friendliness and endless complexity of this variety are simply unsurpassed.

So in the spirit of obsession, we at PSPR have compiled a list of festivals for the Pinot-lovers among us.  Happy sipping!

CALIFORNIA

OREGON

  • International Pinot Noir Celebration, McMinnville, OR
    July 29-31, 2011
    www.ipnc.org
  • ¡Salud! Pinot Noir Auction, Oregon
    November 11-12, 2011
    www.saludauction.org 

INTERNATIONAL

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TREND: Gastropubs

When it comes to drinks, my first love may be wine, but my true love is beer.  With a wider range of styles and ingredients at their disposal than winemakers, brewers have the freedom to create works of art that often pair better with food than any wine ever could.  But rather than relying on the old pub model with its standard greasy grub, a handful of smart restauraters have opened “gastropubs” which serve artisan brews alongside high-end, freshly prepared fare.  Here, a few on my must-see list.

Leopold’s Gasthaus, San Francisco, CA
I recently visited Leopold’s on Polk Street during its opening weekend.  A mash-up of Austrian hunting lodge and mid-century lounge decor, the restaurant was packed with patrons happily sipping pils, witbiers, and Trappist ales while munching on re-imagined schnitzel, spätzle, and apple streudel for dessert.  My favorite dish was the warm bavarian pretzel with a selection of house-made mustards.

Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie, Agoura Hills, CA
An article in 805 Living Magazine turned me on to this gastropub north of L.A. just after it opened.  One year later, the brasserie is still going strong, serving house-made brews beside country-style small plates inspired by seasonally available produce, harvests and farm products that are sustainably and locally grown.  Try their Belgian-style “Trois Filles” Tripel (ABV 8.3%) for a marriage of spicy, fruity flavors supported by soft malt character.

The Spotted Pig, West Village, NYC
To me, this is the mother of all gastropubs.  I had a tasty late-night dinner here in 2004, the year The Spotted Pig opened under the auspices of Chef April Bloomfield.  Since then, The Pig has become *the* place to grab drinks and a bite in the Village.  For a real treat, try the sheep’s milk ricotta gnudu in basil pesto entree or the pot of pickles as a starter.  And to drink?  House-made and -conditioned cask ale, of course.

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A little fantasizing never hurt anyone.

QUESTION: What is your dream Valentine’s Day date?

Preparing a fantastic homemade meal with my beloved. Since cooking is one of my hidden passions, making dinner with that special someone would not only be fun, but rewarding once we finally got to eat all of the fine dishes we’d created. My dream meal would begin with an aperitif of Laurent-Perrier Brut Rose paired with a selection of artisanal cheeses and jam. (What’s Valentine’s Day without a little bubbly, right?) Next on the menu would be a Brussels sprout leaf salad with bacon, almonds, Roncal cheese, dried cherries and a honey vinaigrette paired with Hugel & Fils’ Pinot Gris Classic from Alsace. After the salad would come homemade spaghetti with meatballs. (Ever since I was a little girl, spaghetti has always been one of my favorite dishes!) Paired with the spaghetti would have to be Casalvento’s Chianti Classico Riserva. After visiting Italy this past summer, I cannot imagine a better wine to go with pasta. After the main course would come dessert. I am almost obsessed with red velvet cake and Clautiere Vineyards’ 2005 Estate Port, so there would be no better options to satisfy my sweet tooth. This would be my dream Valentine’s Date.  I hope there will be someone special in my future to enjoy these fine delicacies with me…

Jamie Evans

 

Our world is full of amazing locations for romance, but it’s about the person we’re sharing it with that truly adds the quintessential element, and my husband, Richard, is just that person. If we head east, my dream Valentine’s Day would include landing in NYC. We’d check into a Central Park-facing suite at the Ritz-Carlton Central Park, where a chilled bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose would be waiting. We would treat ourselves to a luxurious spa before our carriage ride through Central Park. Then we’re off to the Met to enjoy either Joshua Bell or Andrea Bocelli; I’d be happy with either. The pairing menu at Daniel NYC would round out this amazing day perfectly. If we head west, we would find ourselves on a small Pacific island, similar to where we spent our honeymoon. Our day would include a morning sail and kayaking, soaking in the warmth of the sun, snorkeling, and enjoying the indigenous art and culture. A sunset dinner and dancing to regional music under the stars would top the day off beautifully. There’s nothing better than true love, shared.

Linda Parker Sanpei

 

It would all begin with my man, Scott, showing up to my front door early in the morning with a rose he picked (from the garden we planted together) with a note tied to it.  The note would contain a clue that would start our day off at the café (I dearly love coffee).  From there, he would give me two notes, each one giving a clue to where we might end up. Based on these, I would have to choose where the day would take us.  The clue I pick would lead to the rugged beauty that is the town of Pozo. In Pozo, he would unload his dirt bike and I’d hop on behind him with the mystery backpack. He would ride up to the top of one of the trails where we could sit and watch the sunrise over breathtaking views. To my surprise the backpack would contain my favorite meal: breakfast! With the two of us snuggled up to each other, munching away, I would feel the warmth of his love and the peace knowing that I was living in a perfect moment.

Later we would head back to town where we would unload the bike laughing and enjoying each other’s company the whole time.  Afterward we’d head to Avila Beach, where we had our first date, and play a game of pool at Mr. Ricks by the sea. Of course, in my perfect dream I completely smash Scott and win the game of pool, but in reality he is much better than me.   (It’s my dream and this time I win.) That night, since I know that we both prefer each other’s company to presents or gifts, we would take a drive up to Prefumo Canyon and sit on his tail gate staring into the night sky waiting for a shooting star to fall from the heavens and grant us our wish. It’s a silly game to play, wishing on the stars; but in that moment our worlds would stand still and all our wishes and dreams would have come true… We were together on the most perfect Valentine’s Day.

Chanae Rodriguez

 

  1. Find babysitter.
  2. Take out loan. 
  3. Get a sassy haircut, facial and massage.
  4. Dress to the nines: I’m thinking Anthropologie dress and BCBG snakeskin heels
  5. Fly to the Napa County Airport aboard private aircraft with my husband at the wheel. 
  6. Private tastings with Napa’s best out-of-the-way, small, private producers. 
  7. Tasting menu at The French Laundry with a bottle of the 1999 DRC.
  8. Stay in some luxurious spa inn. (Anywhere, really, so long as it’s quiet and I can sleep in.)
  9. Wake up to my gorgeous husband, bowls of cafe crème, fresh brioche, and Sunday’s edition of the New York Times.

Jaime Lewis

 

 

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How I dropped everything to pursue WINE.

When we were kids, we wanted to be firefighters, ballerinas, princesses, superheros, and the President of the United States.  But then something happened.  Hopes of following the rainbow gradually morphed into hopes that we’d make rent for the month.  Our potential was never lost; only misplaced.

Some of us lucky ones found ourselves discontented enough – and disconnected enough – to jump out of the rat race and toward our passions.  Here, we explore the ways in which each of us has dropped everything to pursue something we love: WINE.

I was 21 years old, working in event planning and fundraising for the office of Senator Alan Cranston in Los Angeles. It was a great job – one most would envy – but I felt like I was growing up too fast. All of my 30-year old friends had traveled in their 20s already, but I hadn’t. So I decided to put my career on hold and go to Europe for a year. I wound up in St. Gallen, Switzerland, learning German through an immersion course and working in a hotel there. The budget was shoestring, but I had some of my most incredible experiences while on that journey. While spending time with my Swiss uncle, I uncovered a deep affinity for wine. He was quite the wine collector, and took it upon himself to share a few treasured vintages with me. At the time, as he shared many dusty bottles from the cellar, I thought, “Wow. That is really good.” Only years later, when I stumbled upon one of the labels I’d saved from those wines did I see that it had been a ’47 Chateau d’Yquem we’d shared. I can only imagine what other treasures Uncle Urs poured for us. I can trace a huge part of my passion for cuisine, wine, and travel to that year.

Linda Parker Sanpei

 

I was about to turn 30 and could feel myself falling down the rabbit hole.  Directing education programs for a symphony orchestra was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t one for which I was truly, profoundly passionate.  That place in my heart was reserved for travel and wine.  Since my husband and I had been married, we’d believed that we should try living internationally, and the time was right.  We took private Italian lessons for a year, saved our pennies, and I got my sommelier certification – all while working 10-hour days.  (I routinely awoke at 5:15am to study the appellations of the world.)  At last, on my 30th birthday, we departed for six months of working and living on organic farms across Italy and six months working at a winery in New Zealand.  All the while, I blogged about our adventures, and that became the foundation of my wine/food/travel writing career.  Aside from motherhood, nothing has shaped me so much as that year.  And to have done it with my best friend – my husband – was so perfect.  When people tell me they want to “experience life” before getting married, I always reference our trip and point out that experiencing life should happen from the cradle to the grave, not just when we’re young and single.

Jaime Lewis

 

Last summer, I left two jobs and went to Europe for a two-month excursion to Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain and Greece to learn about my true love in life: Wine! There were only 16 students chosen from Cal Poly to represent the wine/viticulture department and I was one of the only two Wine Business students selected. During my first week in Europe, I tasted through the wonderful vineyards and wineries that surrounded the beautiful shores of Lake Geneva. One of the most memorable things about Switzerland was the steep vineyards – which seemed pretty dangerous for vineyard workers. During the second week of my trip, we went to Italy to experience the wonderful wines of Tuscany. Something about Italy: They know how to cook! I sometimes still dream about the hand-made tortellini I ate in Siena paired with Tuscany’s claim to fame, Sangiovese. After Italy, we traveled to France were we tasted through some of the best Alsatian wines and bubbles from Champagne. I also got to take a weekend trip to Paris, where I enjoyed a fine bottle of Xavier Laroux from Champagne underneath the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. The last week of my trip was back to Switzerland to sadly say goodbye to the Chasselas and Gruyere that I fell so hard for. After my Cal Poly wine trip was over, I continued my journey on to Spain were I spent a week basking in the sun on the beaches of both San Sebastian and Barcelona. All I can say about Spain is: AMAZING! After that, I traveled to Greece were I met up with my family. We spent our first couple nights in Athens, right next to the Acropolis, which is truly breathtaking. The food in Greece was also something to remember! (The stuffed grape leaves were to die for.) After Athens, we continued our travels to the small islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Crete and Skiathos, each with their own personality and charm. Overall, this trip was life-changing and I will never forget all of the wonderful experiences I had in the summer of 2010.

Jamie Evans

 

I had just finished spring quarter at Cal Poly University, and was planning to leave the only city I had ever known and move up to Napa for an internship with a boutique winery. As the days rolled on, I left my job and began to pack for my trip up north. To my surprise, my excitement started to turn into nervousness and hesitation. I could not help but wonder if I was doing the right thing, leaving the safety and comfort of my home to pursue a dream in the wine industry; however, the love and support I received from my family and friends was enough to give me that extra confidence that this was the right choice.  Napa was a different world in itself. I lived in St. Helena with my two close friends from college which was a lifesaver because it helped me to feel a bit more at home and settle into a rhythm. Every opportunity that I could take to learn more about the wine industry, I took, leaving me to travel throughout the surrounding cities selling wine, working in the office doing administrative work, social media, and then going out tasting the iconic wines of Napa. I was in the heart of wine country, soaking it up, and yet my heart seemed to still be rooted back in San Luis Obispo.  As August came to a close and harvesters had begun to pick the ripened grapes, it signaled to me that it was time to go back to school. I was leaving Napa with a new appreciation and understanding of the wine industry, and had a sadness in my heart knowing I would not be waking up to another perfect day in St. Helena. The sadness quickly dissipated as I realized I was heading home!  Leaving my life in San Luis Obispo was one of the toughest things I have done, but the rewards that came with it are indescribable. I would not change one day of that summer for anything. It has changed my life forever, for the better.

Chanae Rodriguez

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How does this lifestyle PR agency celebrate the Super Bowl? By eating our way through all four quarters.

FIRST QUARTER

Linda’s Artichoke Dip

We have gone to an old family friend’s house for the past 20 Super Bowls.  It started out with babies rolling on the floor.  Now our kids spend the game trying to sneak sips of our drinks. 

This dip is my husband’s favorite…and not for the faint of heart.

Mix together:

  • 1 jar artichoke hearts – Drained and chopped (I get the canned ones from TJ’s, in water)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese (from TJ’s, finely grated, NOT shredded)

 **Bake at 350* for 30 min. Serve with toasted pita points

SECOND QUARTER

Jaime’s Muffuletta Sandwich

For the past couple years, we’ve gone to a friend’s house to watch the commercials game.  I’m not a big football fan, but I seriously love me some good old American potluck food.  This muffuletta sandwich is consistently a hit.

Ingredients:

Olive Salad:

  • 1 cup each pitted green and black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tiny capers
  • 1/3 cup diced (1/4 inch) roasted red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced (1/4 inch) celery, with leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Sandwich:

  • 1 round peasant bread (about 7 inches in diameter, 5 inches high), halved crosswise, insides pulled out
  • 4 ounces each thinly sliced Genoa salami and mortadella
  • 4 ounces thinly-sliced provolone cheese

To make:

  1. Prepare the Olive Salad ahead of time: Combine all the ingredients and set aside in the refrigerator for 4 hours or longer.
  2. Assemble the sandwich: Spread half of the Olive Salad on the bottom half of the bread. Layer with salami, provolone and mortadella, then top with the remaining Olive Salad. Cover with the top of the bread, press down and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Wrap the sandwich in plastic wrap and let stand for 1 hour.
  3. Unwrap, cut into 6 wedges using a serrated knife, then wrap them for the road. Be sure to hollow out the bread so the salad can fit inside. Doing so also cuts carbs and calories.

THIRD QUARTER

Jamie Lynn’s Mexican Chicken Casserole

I cannot live without Buffalo wings and blue cheese dressing on Super Bowl Sunday!  But I usually make this colorful dish for our annual get-together and people just love it.  As for what to drink with it?  Delicious keg beer, of course. 

 Ingredients: 

  • One Medium Onion
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • One can Diced Cut Tomatoes w/green pepper/celery/onions
  • One can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • One 4 oz. can Chopped Green Chilies (Mild)
  • One Pkg boneless chicken breasts cooked with 1 tsp seasoning salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp. tarragon and 1/2 tsp lemon pepper, cooled and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • 1/2 lb bag taco or nacho chips, coursely crushed
  • 2 cups grated Mexican (4 cheese) cheese or more
  • 1 can sliced black olives (drained) or you may substitute 1 can black beans drained.
  • 1 can Mexicorn  (Drained)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder and fresh ground pepper to taste

 To make:

  1. Saute onion in butter.  Add tomatoes, cream of mushroom soup, green chilies, mexicorn, black olives, chicken, garlic powder and pepper.  Simmer 15 minutes.
  2. Grease 9 X 13 pan and put crushed tortilla chips in bottom of pan.  Pour chicken mixture over top and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  
  3. Take out of oven and top with grated cheese and return to oven until cheese melts.  DO NOT OVERBAKE-EVERYTHING IS COOKED.  Let stand five to ten minutes before serving.
  4. Serve with salsa and sour cream- and black olives.    

FOURTH QUARTER

Chanae’s Dessert Crepes 

My favorite way to spend Super Bowl Sunday?  BBQing!! I love baking and cooking beforehand, and then just hanging out watching the game. My pops and I love watching football and basketball together. This year, we are cooking his amazing enchilada recipe to contribute to all the other fixings. 

This is a classic pairing of nutella with bananas in a crepe.  If you don’t want to make the crepes yourself, you can always head to your grocer’s produce area to find pre-made crepes.

Ingredients for crepes:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 sliced banana
  • Whipped cream
  • 1-2 (depending on crepe size) tablespoons of Nutella Spread
  • 2 tabs of Butter
  • Cinnamon and Sugar
  • Chocolate syrup

To make:

  1. Sift together flour, sugar and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk together with an electric mixer. Beat in flour mixture until smooth; stir in melted butter.
  2. Heat a lightly-oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 2 tablespoons for each crepe. Tip and rotate pan to spread batter as thinly as possible. Brown on both sides and serve hot.
  3. Take the sliced banana, place into hot pan with butter- let it lightly toast. Sprinkle a mix of cinnamon and sugar on top of the frying bananas and let it “melt.”
  4. Spread the nutella onto the crepe, top with fried bananas, whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrupand drizzle chocolate syrup on top
  5. Either roll up like a dessert burrito or serve with a fork.

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