"True wine enthusiasts don’t collect wines.
They collect memories of wines shared with friends and family."

-Dario Zucconi

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cheese and “Wine” Down Friday

(Cowgirl Creamery Cheeses From Left to Right: Rimrocker, Cana de Cabra, and Lambchopper. Honey is in between.)

One of the things I love about living in the Bay Area is that the sky is the limit when it comes to culinary adventures. For those of you who know me, you probably know that I can be a little uptight when it comes to planning things and being in control of everything.  But, you also know that when it comes to food, I love trying new things and expanding my palate.  Today, I did just that.

Today, I received our quarterly Wine Club shipment from Robledo Winery (Sonoma, CA).  We got 3 bottles of 2010 Tempranillo (Napa Valley) and 3 bottles of 2009 Zinfandel (Mendocino County).  I was excited, of course.  So, I started thinking about what I wanted to prepare for dinner to enjoy tonight with one of these bottles. Fridays are usually “pizza and movie” night for our family. Well, I didn’t really feel like pizza tonight (the kids got pizza, though!). I wanted something a little lighter.  Plus, it was a beautiful sunny day today, so I wanted to enjoy dinner “al fresco” – outside.  I decided to do a “cheese platter” to enjoy with one of the wines.

So, before heading home, I walked to the San Francisco Ferry Building – which is across the street from my work.  First, I stopped at the Boccalone Salumeria shop [http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/boccalone_shop_page.php].  It’s a Salume/Salame shop, co-created by Chris Cosentino of the Food Network (http://www.foodnetwork.com/chris-cosentino/bio/index.html).  They had this deal where you can pick a sample of three different types of meat (Salame, Prosciutto, etc.), they will arrange it in a nice little platter for $10.  It comes with some cured olives and bread sticks (nice toys for the kids!).  

Next, I stopped by the Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop (http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/cowgirl_creamery.php).  That place is like heaven for cheese lovers. It seems like they have every type of cheese that you can want: Soft, hard, strong, mild, cow milk, goat milk, sheep milk, you name it! The cheese consultant – Jessie was wonderful. I just told her what I wanted to do tonight (a simple wine, cheese, and salame pairing for dinner).  The first two cheeses she suggested were divine.  The first was the Cana de Cabra (Spain), which is a silky, soft, delicious goat milk cheese (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/07/16/FDHL1E8R1C.DTL). For the specifics on this cheese, check out Cowgirl’s website: http://www.cowgirlcreamery.com/prodinfo.asp?number=CANAC

The second was Lambchopper, which is a sheep milk soft cheese that is made in Holland, but transported to the United States to be sold by Cowgirl Creamery: http://www.cowgirlcreamery.com/prodinfo.asp?number=LAMBC.  When I sampled this cheese, I was transported to some place that I can’t even describe.  The flavors were incredible. It was sweet, but salty (almost like salty caramel), and with a hint of citrus and vanilla. My palate was screaming: "Delicious!"

Third, Jessie gave me a taste of a third cheese – a cow milk cheese that I did not really like. It was a bit too spicy. And, I can’t recall the name. I told her to recommend another one. She recommended the Rimrocker cheese, which is a blend of cow and goat milk, and is made in Bend, Oregon.  http://www.cowgirlcreamery.com/prodinfo.asp?number=RIM.  That was really delicious.

I also picked up some honey in honeycomb from Cowgirl Creamery. I love having honey with cheese. 

Then, I went next door to Acme Bread and picked up some sourdough baguette and some cranberry walnut bread. I headed home on the BART train, carrying my wines, and a nice little bag of heavenly, yummy goodness.  When I got home, we arranged everything on a platter.   

We opened up a bottle of Tempranillo. Tempranillo is a Spanish red wine that has a deep ruby red (almost purple) color, and has wonderful flavors of cherries, plums, and vanilla http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempranillo.  It was a great pairing with the wines, especially the Casa de Cabra and the Lambchopper.

We sat on the patio and enjoyed a wonderful evening, laughing, telling stories, and relaxing.  When we finished with dinner, the kids brought out some blankets (as it got a little chilly in the evening), and snuggled up with us on the chairs, as we looked at some stars and watched planes fly up in the sky. We even saw Venus. My daughter spotted it first, and then my 4-year-old son gave us a tutorial on astronomy – telling us about the different planets, their distances from the earth, and their various characteristics.  He learned those from visiting the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, CA.  In the end, we had a spectacular and relaxing Friday evening. No cooking! Just a simple cheese platter with a delicious bottle of red wine.  A perfect way to “wine” down on Friday night!

I hope your Friday evening was equally enjoyable.  Until next time . . . Cheers!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Slowly Braised Whole Organic Chicken

Wednesdays are usually a little harder than the other work days because, as they say, Wednesday is a "hump" day.  Today was one of those days.  At 3:00 p.m., it felt like I had been at work for 12 hours. I guess the long busy weekend last week is catching up with me mid-week.

But, as I pulled into my garage this evening, I was welcomed by the most aromatic, delectable, and mouthwatering smell emanating from inside my house.  My spirits were instantaneously uplifted.  I opened the house door, put my work bag down, and rushed into the kitchen where my kids, my husband, and our wonderful Au Pair Ten were waiting for me to start a lovely family meal together: Slowly cooked Whole Organic Chicken, with Steamed Thai Jasmine Rice, and Sugar Snap Peas.  I had never felt more at home than I did at that moment!

How did this delicious meal come together so magically you ask? Well, it's actually teamwork - something that the Warner Family has become an expert at lately with all the things that we are juggling every day.  It all started this morning.  As Ten and Patrick were getting the kids ready for school (making breakfast, packing lunches, remembering to pack "beach towels" for the Faith Family picnic, and making sure that I left the house on time so the kids were not late for school), I hurriedly prepared the chicken and the other ingredients and placed everything in the Slow Cooker.  I managed to get the kids to school on time - barely - but I made it.  Ten made the rice when she and the kids got home in our rice cooker. And, she (along with my 6-year-old son) cleaned the sugar snap peas and steamed them before I got home. (He loves trimming the ends of the sugar snap peas.)

  • 1 Whole Chicken, cut up in about 8 pieces (I got an organic chicken from Berkeley Bowl last Sunday, and had the Butcher cut it up for me, without the guts).
  • 2 Medium Carrots, diced.
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled.
  • 1 bag of Pearl ("baby") Onions peeled (or 1 large yellow onions largely diced) [Trick to peeling those baby onions: Boil water, put the onions in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes, drain, run under cold water, and peel easily.]
  • 1 large (28 ounces) can of whole Plum Tomatoes (with juice).
  • Fresh herbs (a few sprigs of parsley, cilantro, and thyme; 1 dried bay leaf if you have it). Tie them with some twine or string. [Can use dried herbs too, if you don't have fresh ones.]
  • A cup of chicken stock (maybe a little bit more, depending on the size of your chicken; make sure the liquid is covering the chicken about 1/2 way only).
  • Rinse the chicken under cool water.
  • Pat dry to remove any excess water.
  • Season with salt (generously) and pepper
  • Arrange chicken in slow cooker.
  • Add carrots, onions, and garlic.
  • Tuck the bundle of herbs under the chicken in the middle of the Slow Cooker.
  •  Add the tomatoes, with juice.
  • Add the chicken stock.
  • Sprinkle a little bit more salt and pepper on top to make sure the vegetables are seasoned too.
  • Cover and set the Slow Cooker on LOW for 8 hours.
Serve with some steamed rice and your favorite vegetables.  Enjoy a wonderful, healthy, home cooked meal with your family and catch up on the day's activities.  In our family, we usually take turns going around the table telling each other what we did today, what we liked about the day, and what didn't go so much our ways.  I guarantee you that you'll forget all about whatever stress and headaches you had to deal with during the day.

Until next time . . . Cheers! ZinAdel