Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two New Wines

I drink a lot of great wine and every now and then am truly blown away by a bottle or two.  This week, maybe because it was Valentine's I was gifted two seriously delicious wines -- a red and a white that are so deserving of my praise. 

The red is called Apothic Red and has a gorgeous label as well.  The vineyard is owned by Gallo but you won't see the imprint on the label.  You can learn all about it at  It's a rich combination of Zinfandel, Syrah and Merlot and serves up layers of cherries, vanilla and mocha.  My dad would have loved this wine.  His favorite dessert was anything chocolate with a great glass of Zin.   This wine tastes like dessert in a glass.  Price point is even better at 13.99 a bottle and can be purchased online.  Robert Parker has some great things to say about the wine as well so my palate is spot on with this wine. 

The second bottle is a lovely lemony-straw colored Chardonnay from the Burrell School vineyard located in the Santa Cruz mountains.  It's called "Teacher's Pet" Chardonnay.  The name comes from the Burrell School bell tower circa 1890 that overlooks the vineyard.  In the glass, the wine opens up to a nose of toast and lemon custard, pears and pineapple. This is a zesty Chardonnay with juicy flavors of grapefruit, almonds, Honey tangelo and golden delicious apple. The lively acidity begs to be enjoyed with equally lively fare. We drank a 2006 that is sold out -- production was limited to 790 cases.  The wines are fermented and aged  for a year in French Oak barrels.  Bottles from 2007 are available for around $30 and worth every penny.  690 cases were produced so check it out:   The company's tagline is equally engaging: I promise to sip my wine...  words to live by that I more often than not forget entirely. 


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Short Ribs Inspired by Daniel Boulud for my new friend, Ron!

    Shopping for a party the other day I ran into a wine rep for Gallo who offered me the lovliest bottle of their high end red wine (which right this minute I cannot recall the name) but the logo was red and foily and beautiful over the black bottle.  In honor of Valentine's Day the bottle was replete with a red bow.  I was so excited to try the wine and thanked Ron profusely.  I also mentioned that I was a chef so he knew when talking about the wine's composition and scores -- I had some appreciation of his pitch.   Once  he found out that I was a chef he asked about Short Ribs to which I replied, "I make the best!" I really do.  They are inpsired by Daniel Boulud's recipe with my own twist on his ingredients and cooking time.  Plus I serve mine over creamy polenta and not a  puree of celery.  Polenta and short ribs belong create a food union that invokes other great partnerships like PB & J and Pommes Frites with Aioli.  
    So Ron this one's for you and anyone else who is ready to surrender to braised beef ribs falling from the bone soaked in rich cabernet layered with flavors of vegetables and bay leaves over a bed of buttery polenta with just a taste of Parmesan. 
  • 1 1/2 bottles dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • A dozen short ribs
  • Salt and crushed black peppercorns
  • Flour, for dredging
  • 8 large shallots, peeled, trimmed, split, rinsed and dried
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 ribs of celery, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 medium-sized leek (white and light-green parts), coarsely chopped, washed and dried
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves and 2 thyme sprigs
  • 6 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 quarts unsalted beef broth
  • Freshly ground white pepper

1. Pour the wine into a large saucepan set over medium heat. When the wine is hot, carefully set it aflame. Let the flames die out, then increase the heat so that the wine boils; allow it to boil until it cooks down by half. Remove from the heat.  This takes around an hour so have patience.
2. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350°F.
3. Warm the oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat.  Coat the ribs all over with salt and the crushed pepper.  Drop the ribs into a paper bag filled with a 1/4 Cup flour and give them a good shake. Then, when the oil is hot, slip the ribs into the pot and sear 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until well-browned. Transfer the ribs to a plate. Repeat with remaining ribs.  Once finished browning, lower the heat under the pot to medium and toss in the vegetables and herbs. Brown the vegetables lightly, 5 to 7 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the wine, ribs and broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover tightly and place in the oven to braise for 2 1/2 hours or until the ribs are very tender. Every 30 minutes, skim and discard fat from the surface. (It's best to make the recipe to this point, cool and chill the ribs and broth in the pan overnight; scrape off the fat the next day. Rewarm before continuing.)
5. Carefully transfer the meat to a platter; keep warm. Boil the pan liquid until it has reduced to 1 quart. Season with salt and white pepper and pass through a fine strainer; discard the solids. (The ribs and sauce can be combined and kept covered in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Reheat gently, basting frequently, on top of the stove or in a 350°F oven.)
6. To serve, spoon a healthy serving of polenta on 6 plates and top each with 2 short ribs. Decorate with some of the discarded  vegetables.  Smother with remaining sauce.  

This is one dish you will serve where your guests will think you're a culinary genius.  And of course, if you pull it off, you are...
Bon Appetit! 


Monday, February 14, 2011


Happy Valentine's lovebirds!  I spent the weekend cooking for two parties -- a birthday bash with a crowd that sounded like they were out of Noel Coward play --  hilarious.  And a Grammy party that featured my time-honored bolognese that is one of the best ragus ever!  Oh and at the latter hands down, the most gorgeous guest to date... can't reveal his name but can I just say that cooking for a 6'4" surfer with a sensitive poetic side and a killer smille is like well my version of a lap dance.  Beautiful men really love it when you cook well and they let you know how appreciative they are... okay so this is getting off  track for sure.  

Wanted to add that what makes cooking for people so damn swell is the amount of love and happiness you are able to witness and contribute to via the delicious food you present.   There is a spike of instant gratification when you see the smiles and hear the "oh my God" after a guest bites into a particularly outrageous appetizer like my roasted walnut, anchovie and olive tapenade on crositini or polish off a chocolate pot de creme smothered in whipped cream and then lick the rim of the ramekin.   This is love; right?  Plain and simple.  So I guess without overstating, I am in the business of delivering love and that makes me feel so good about myself. 

So in honor of Valentine's Day I wanted to share all the love I felt this weekend via these decadent, best little chocolate pots de creme, because everyone should have chocolate on Valentine's.  And they're easy so don't freak out....

I baked these in 8oz. jelly jars but you can bake them in ramekins or any type of glass vessel that appeals to you. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

8 egg yolks
1 1/3 Cup Heavy Cream
1 1/3 Cup Milk
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tsp. vanilla

Place the chocolate chips in a bowl.  Heat the cream and milk until simmering.  Whisk the egg yolks with the vanilla.  Pour the steaming milk mixture over the chocolate chips.  Whisk until the chocolate melts completely.  Temper the egg yolks some of the hot chocolate cream and then slowly incorporate into the chocolate.

Place four vessels in a casserole and fill with water until it reaches the glasses halfway point.  Bake until firm around 30 minutes.  Once they've cooled allow them to chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours.  Top with fresh whipped cream or eat by themselves.  They are heaven on earth.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Secret Table February 26, 2011

Dear Friends,

Apologies for the long hiatus between Secret Table communal dining events.   December and January were months heavy with catering gigs which prevented us from gathering around our Secret Table.  But we're back and ready for a steady series of dinner parties throughout the year. 

We launch Saturday, February 26th at 7:30.  Please join us for:

Cardaman Cheese Straws

First Course:
Velvet Corn Soup with Truffle Oil, Crisped Prosciutto,
Dungeness Crab and Chiffonade of Basil

Second Course:

Roasted Halibut with "Blazin'" Asian Glaze

Israeli Couscous with Haricot Vert, Roasted Almonds, Feta
and Tarragon Vinaigrette

Cherry Tomato and Mint Salsa Fresca


Tenderloin of Beef with Creamy Pommery
Mustard Sauce

Buttery Potato Puree

Braised Kale with Tangy Cherry Tomato Saute


Arugula with Shards of Parmesan and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette


Coconut Cake with Saffron Cream

Each course paired with wine.  Coffee and Tea.

$115 per person
includes tax and gratuity.

Seating is limited.  Tickets can be purchased at  Click on the BUY NOW button and you will be directed to a secure site for payment.  Enter the price of the ticket(s) you are purchasing.  A confirmation email and address will be sent to you soon after. 

We’ll see you around the table.