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grapes and hops: harvest at hawley vineyards

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Midafternoon, temperatures in the mid-eighties in October and blazing sun above, it wasn’t an ideal time of day for a photo a shoot. From my lens, everything outside was drenched in yellow sunlight. But learning that crush was underway at Hawley Winery and Vineyards, it was a story I didn’t want my camera to miss, regardless if the light was cooperating or not. Meandering through Dry Creek Valley, my visit to the winery was somewhat impromptu. Though they have a tasting room located in downtown Healdsburg, my heart loves being around vines.

Traveling with a friend and enjoying the backroads, we found ourselves heading up Bradford Mountain and couldn’t have ventured over to the vineyard at a better time. We were warmly greeted by Paul Hawley, General Manager, assistant winemaker, grape wrangler and hop grower. A family affair producing small-batch wines, everyone at Hawley wears many hats, and at harvest time, all hands are on deck. While waiting for a truckload of Zinfandel grapes to arrive from Ponzo Vineyards for crush, Paul treated us to a taste.

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Popping a cork, we poured Sauvignon Blanc first. Cool, crisp and clean, it was a refreshing splash in the hot weather. Paul shared how he was inspired to make this varietal after working harvest in New Zealand. Known for their Viognier, and what prompted my visit, the 2012 proved to be “a vintage to celebrate”. I first tasted Hawley at Locals Tasting Room in Geyserville a few years back. Discovering that I love Côtes du Rhône style wines, their Viognier made a lasting impression. Viognier is one of the approved white wine grapes that’s permitted to grow in the Rhone Valley in France. In California, American Rhone varietal wines have surged, and thus too the Viognier has grown in popularity. The challenge is finding Hawley Viognier though as they produce their wines in small quantities and have limited distribution.

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With the truck delayed, we ventured over to see the hops growing across from the vineyard. Paul filled us in about his new project, Fogbelt Brewing Company. Using both locally and estate-grown hops, with the intent to plant more in the coming spring, Fogbelt is brewing up Red Ale, Blond Ale, Stout, IPA and Witbier. Witbier, a Belgian style ale that’s “pale and cloudy in appearance” is traditionally made and lightly spiced with coriander and orange peel. A play on that theme, Fogbelt has a fresh twist in store using cilantro and Kaffir lime leaves.

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The fruit finally arrived and a flurry of activity got underway. I had gotten my hands dirty earlier in the season by taking part in harvest, crush and punchdown in the Santa Cruz mountains. I was excited to finally capture a few stages of the wine-making process with my camera. The typical winery equipment was set in motion. A forklift hauled the Zinfandel-filled bins from the truck and arranged each closer to the hopper, a destemming machine.

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Paul had a chance to share some interesting insight about Zinfandel grapes while his brother Austin was working the forklift. Paul noted that “often people think it’s Pinot that’s hard to work with, but Zin, it’s hard to predict the perfect time to pick.” “You can’t pick Zin from the [Brix] numbers alone. It’s not just about sugar numbers. It’s important to be out in the vineyard tasting the fruit, evaluating the look of the clusters. He emphasized it’s “really important to taste the berries.” In an article, wine journalist Talia Baiocchi shed some light on the grape: “Zinfandel is uniquely prone to uneven ripening, where both raisins and green berries exist on the same grape cluster at the same time.” This is exactly what Paul pointed out as he reached into the bins. The uneven ripening poses a challenge as fermentation gets underway.

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Heading inside, Paul poured a range of more wine and pulled a sample of the 2013 Oehlman Vineyard Pinot, which he shared is aged in 50% new French oak, iridescent, and is partially through malolactic fermentation.

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We chatted more about production and the wine-making process. Garland Wine Merchants has an extensive profile on Hawley Wines and thoughts from winemaker John Hawley, who notes that following in the French tradition, Hawley Viognier is fermented in “5 to 8 year old French oak barrels by choice to produce a wine with a silky texture, complex flavors and delicate balance that help make [the] wine more versatile with food, more age worthy, and more harmonious as a whole“.

I may have initially gone to Hawley to simply pick-up a bottle of Viognier. I didn’t anticipate leaving with several bottles (including one gift) of wine, a host of pictures, deeper knowledge about Zinfandel grapes, and a new friend.

Hawley’s Tasting Room and Gallery is located in downtown Healdsburg, California. Or call ahead to schedule time at the winery in Dry Creek, you’ll enjoy the visit.

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dutch puff pancake

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A simple-to-make pancake with several names, I first tasted this along the Turquoise Trail in New Mexico. My host called it a Dutch Puff, though it also goes by the name Dutch Baby or German Pancake. Fluffy-light but filling, the soufflé-crêpe-popover-esque pancake whips up in no time and makes for an impressive plate. The batter can be blended together the night prior and then heated in the oven to serve on the spot. It’s a perfect dish to serve for breakfast or brunch, and it can be topped with a range of jams, jellies or marmalade, fresh fruit or dusted with seasoned sugar. Serve it for dinner or dessert, it won’t disappoint, it’s delicious.

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Dutch Puff Pancake
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium cast-iron pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter (ensure that it doesn’t brown) and set aside. In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, flour, salt, vanilla, and 1/4 cup sugar. Blend until smooth and foamy, about 1 minute. Pour the batter into your skillet; bake until the pancake is fluffy like a soufflé and lightly brown,roughly 20 minutes. Serve immediately while hot. Don’t expect any leftovers.

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along the turquoise trail

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Flying in to Albuquerque, New Mexico from there I took the Turquoise Trail to reach Santa Fe and spent a night at a Bed and Breakfast on a ranch along the way. A National Scenic Byway, Highway 14 starts to get interesting once you reach Madrid. A small old mining town that’s full of character, it’s a quaint stop. It’s also full of dust, but bright colors splashed everywhere from stores to mailboxes makes up for it. The Mine Shaft Tavern is a must-stop to enjoy a local beer and catch Harley riders. It also happens to be a historic saloon, and a gem of a spot. The locals quickly pointed out it’s pronounced Maad-rid unlike the city in Spain. There’s plenty of art studios, galleries, vintage shops and cowboy boots to find along the main street. Venturing on to Cerrillos, you’ll feel as though you ventured back in time. It’s a quintessential old American Western town. A number of films have been made in the area, it captures the heart of the West. Though you won’t find turquoise along the way, one of the best things about sleeping in one of the resorts or ranches along the trail is that you will find a multitude of stars at night. Serene and peaceful is the best way to describe my overnight stay. A short trip, with still more to explore, I hope to venture back.

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For more posts on New Mexico, have a taste of Chimayó Chiles.

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chimayó chiles

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San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer spent time in Santa Fe earlier this month and shared a taste of his visit to the city’s farmer’s market for a green chile cheeseburger smackdown. With harvest behind, bushels of peppers to buy and festivals to look forward to, it’s prime chile season in New Mexico this time of year. Reading about it reminded me of my own trip to the Land of Enchantment a couple of years back, and it served as an incentive to revisit and dish up my own memories.

With the exception of staying a few nights along The Turquoise Trail, Santa Fe served as my home base for the duration of my visit to New Mexico allowing me to take leisurely day trips to nearby places of interest. With the hopes of capturing postcard views, I set my sites on a northeastern town that promised adobes and an opportunity to experience local culture.

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Destination: Chimayó
Roughly 28 miles heading northeast from Santa Fe along what’s dubbed as the high-desert corridor, I set out to see El Santuario de Chimayóm, an old adobe church that’s visited by thousands of pilgrims each year. Food is always on my mind, but traveling a bit on a whim I hadn’t realized at the time that Chimayó is not only a draw for its church, but it’s also famous for its chiles. I learned this along the way when I stopped at a roadside stand selling green and red heirloom peppers along with locally grown squash.

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Harvested in late summer, Chimayó chiles are picked when green, or left longer to ripen on the vine and then picked later in the fall when a lush red. The red dried peppers are strung into chains or wreaths that are called ristras or dried and ground into a chile molido or powder. Though both are from the same plant, the green chiles tend to be fleshier than their red counterparts. The red peppers tend to exhibit a deeper, richer flavor. The founders of the Chimayo Chile Project describe the flavor of these peppers as “chocolaty with more flavor than heat” and “if sunbaked they get an added tang”. Red or green, chiles are synonymous with New Mexico’s cuisine and are incorporated into almost all traditional dishes.

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The Chimayó Chile Project grows its chiles using “natural cultivation methods” and is intent on preserving the seeds to pass on to future generations. These heirlooms have a long history, arriving with the Spanish to the New World more than 300 years ago. Similar to wine, “terroir” and uniqueness of place is important to this industry as well as the state goes to great lengths to protect its name affiliated with these premium homegrown peppers.

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If you’re curious for more about Chimayó chiles and for a taste, here are a few reads and recipes:
Chimayó’s Chile Culture Saveur
Mrs. Sanchez’s Red Chile Sauce Saveur
Huntley Dent’s Red Chile Sauce Serious Eats
Chimayó-Chile Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms Food & Wine

While you have chiles on your mind, be sure to checkout East of Eden’s Chili Corn Bread made with Hatch chiles, a variety also grown in New Meixco.

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wise sons deli

photos du jour: a taste of Wise Sons Deli

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Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen on 24th Street in the Mission, San Francisco
Wise Sons Deli
Getting Wise: How a community helped build a deli

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accordion fingerling potatoes

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Every once in a while a side dish will steal the show. I first had these fingerling potatoes at a friend’s pool-side picnic and all of the guests found the dish to be a fun way to serve up spuds. Easy to prepare, these accordion-cut potatoes are a conversation-starter and remain memorable even while you’re clearing plates from the table. Adapted from Food & Wine magazine, here’s the recipe:

accordion fingerling potatoes
1 pound washed fingerling potatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt or rock salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley for garnish

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Note: Try different seasoning options such as adding smoked paprika to the mix. Another option, in place of the parsley, add fresh chopped dill or rosemary to the olive oil and garlic mixture before tossing with the potatoes and placing in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the minced garlic and add seasoning. Wash the fingerling potatoes (keeping the skins on) then pat dry. Using a sharp paring knife, cut slits into each potato at intervals but be sure not to slice all the way through to the bottom. Toss the pototoes in the olive oil seasoning before placing on a baking sheet. Season with additional salt and pepper. Roast the potatoes with the cut sides up for roughly 35-40 minutes until golden and crisp. Transfer the potatoes to a platter, garnish before serving.

If you’ve ever wondered why potatoes are called spuds, a quick read shares some insight. And Bon Appétit shares the etymology of the word “potato” in their Eat Your Words section.

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watermelon radish and arugula salad

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Pale green or creamy white on the exterior, when sliced open watermelon radishes display an intense magenta rose color inside. The striations found along the outer rim give it a psychedelic tie-dye appeal, perfect for decorating any plate. Though visually striking, these radishes are mild in taste, just a hint peppery with a crisp flesh. This heirloom Chinese Daikon radish variety can be sliced thin with a mandoline to be used in salads, or be braised in a pot or roasted in the oven, prepared and served as you would other root vegetables. Relatively easy to source, the watermelon radish can be found at the market year-round.

This recipe is adapted from Michael Natkin’s herbivoracious cookbook and blog. Using seasonal ingredients, I omitted pomegranate seeds, swapped watercress for arugula and mixed greens, and opted for a creamy sheep’s feta cheese from Israel in place of the Parmigiano-Reggiano noted in the original mix. Easy to prepare, it’s a mild but beautiful salad that will perk up the table.

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watermelon radish and arugula salad
1 large watermelon radish, thinly sliced
4 ounces arugula (with optional mixed greens)
4 ripe figs, halved
1/2 cup toasted walnut halves
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
1 lemon
Extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Serves four

Toss the watermelon radish in a bit of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. I recommend using California Olive Ranch Miller’s Blend which is slightly peppery in taste and will enhance the dish. Arrange the radish slices on each individual plate, or use a large tray and serve family-style. Next, toss the arugula with olive oil and the remaining lemon juice, then place a handful of the seasoned greens on top of the radish slices. Add the figs, toasted walnut halves and feta cheese to the plate. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and a bit of fresh ground black pepper, then serve immediately. Grab a fork and enjoy!

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petals for breakfast

“The earth laughs in flowers.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
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A beautiful way to turn simple toast into something special- top it with petals. Edible flowers are a common ingredient or addition to dishes in Northern California, but the idea to add flowers to my toast stems from a whimsical meal made by fellow food-blogging friend Sarah Melamed of Food Bridge who is across the globe in Israel. No doubt, a bouquet of petals scattered on the plate will turn any bite it into edible art.

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Flowers on Toast
To impress a guest or even for your own repose:
Start with hearty bread. Here, Tartine Bakery’s walnut loaf sliced relatively thin for toast.
Select your favorite cheese. I used labneh, but a cream cheese, creamy goat cheese, triple-cream – any spreadable soft white cheese will do.
Add seasoning. To the labneh I mixed in a bit of finely chopped parsley and garlic along with a spritz of lemon and salt before slathering it on my toast.
Top your bread with edible petals. Pansies added color to my plate. Mustard flowers, white wild radish flowers, roses, yellow arugula flowers – check your market for local flowers that are in season.

Flowers have been part of our meals since antiquity. For a detailed list of edible flowers and its culinary history see:
Edible Flowers
Harvesting Edible Wildflowers
The History of Edible Flowers
A Feast of Flowers – An Epicure’s Guide to Edible Flowers
Recipes and tips for growing, cooking, and eating flowers

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