Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Cocktails

I have a holiday drinks article in today's Los Altos Town Crier. Below are the cocktail recipes I share in the piece. 
My Bucking Reindeer, a holiday riff on the Moscow Mule, is fresh and cheerily pink. The Tropical Sidesleigh puts a holiday twist on the classic Sidecar cocktail.
Keep these recipes handy – they’d be equally welcome at a New Year’s celebration.

Christine’s Bucking Reindeer

• Ice cubes
• 1/4 cup vodka
• 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
• 1/2 cup chilled ginger beer
• 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
• 1 lime wedge
• Pomegranate seeds
• Sprig of rosemary
Fill tall glass with ice cubes. Add vodka, lime juice, ginger beer and pomegranate juice. Stir thoroughly. Garnish with lime wedge, pomegranate seeds and rosemary and serve immediately.

Christine’s Tropical Sidesleigh

• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, very finely chopped (can be omitted)
• 1 cup cognac or good brandy
• 1/2 cup Cointreau
• 1/4 cup pineapple juice (plus scant more for frosting glasses)
Pour small amount of pineapple juice into shallow plate. Place sugar and finely chopped crystallized ginger in another shallow plate. Dip rims of four martini glasses into juice and then sugar mixture. Allow glasses to dry for 10 minutes – this can be done earlier in the day.
Combine cognac, Cointreau and remaining pineapple juice in pitcher and mix well. Add half of mixture to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and then pour into two glasses. Repeat process to fill remaining glasses.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12 glassfuls for Christmas

(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)
Partridges in pear trees and all those lords a-leaping don’t really make it onto Christmas wish lists these days. The idea behind the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is phenomenally festive, though, and served as great inspiration for a list of 12 drink-related treats to get you happily through the holiday season.
In compiling my list, I had the blissful fortune to recruit help from local cookbook author and blogger Erin Gleeson and Laurie Lindrup, director of business development and senior assistant operations manager at Beltramo’s Wines and Spirits, for wine recommendations.
Gleeson’s book, “The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods” (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2014), is full of her photography and watercolor paintings, making it a feast for the eyes. Her straightforward recipes are ideal for entertaining.
Visiting Beltramo’s in Menlo Park this time of year is nearly required holiday preparation for me. The store is my one-stop shop for all things fizzy and fermented – every bottle or brew mentioned is available at Beltramo’s.
For the rest of this really fun -- and useful -- article, head over to the Los Altos Town Crier...
photo courtesy of erin gleeson

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


It's two days after Thanksgiving. We brought all the food north this year. Once home, we threw a leftover party for friends. The dining table is covered in unwashed crystal, and there are things to be done throughout the house. I could take down glass pumpkins and put up Christmas. Instead, I go for a walk. 

I make turkey and cranberry sandwiches and pack a bottle of J Vineyards J Cuvee 20 Brut NV. We walk for a while, then lay out our blanket and breath in the quite afternoon. Rain is coming. We can tell. I'm grateful for that and for the way we linger despite the approaching clouds.

Recipe note: To make my cranberry sauce extra sandwich worthy, here's what I do... To the most basic sauce recipe, I add a good amount of lemon zest and a tablespoon of chopped, fresh rosemary.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving at the barn...

We arrived early enough to enjoy the sun, ate well enough to be filled with gratitude, laughed heartily, slept heavily, and woke up to a misty morning that beckoned a run through vines and oak trees. 

Thanksgiving was very good. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dinner before THE Thursday

Re-posting my Thanksgiving Eve dinner post from last year, because I'll be repeating the recipe at my home tomorrow...

I do my Thanksgiving grocery shopping the Sunday before The Big Day.

Every year I become a wee bit hysterical thinking about what I'll cook for dinner the days leading up to Thursday.

Both space (fridge packed with turkey fixings) and cooking time (I'm working on relishes, sauces, sides) are ultra limited during these pre-holiday days.

This year, I say: Hurrah for Carbonara.
Bacon, egg, Parmesan, pasta: AWESOME. 
Toss in some leftover butternut squash and roast off a cauliflower: FANTASTIC.
Pour a glass of Acacia 2012 Pinot Noir: AMAZING.

Acacia's 2012 Pinot Noir's velvet soft nose is full of rose with whispers of vanilla. The wine's earthiness and solid acidity are just right with the rich flavors of the pasta.

not pictured: roasted me, it was good

Spaghetti alla Butternut Squash Carbonara


5 slices thick cut bacon (cubed)
12 oz cooked butternut squash
2 egg yolks
1 cup Parmesan cheese
salt/pepper to taste
fresh sage/thyme for garnish
1 lb thin spaghetti (1 cup pasta cooking water reserved for sauce)


Boil a large pot of water
In large skillet, brown bacon
Add cooked squash and sauté briefly
Remove bacon and squash from pan and drain fat on paper towels
Cook spaghetti according to package directions
While pasta is cooking, return bacon/squash to pan and ladle one cup of pasta cooking water over
Remove pan from heat
Drain and add pasta to pan
Add egg yolks and toss to incorporate fully
Add cheese, herbs, salt, pepper
Serve immediately

Simple Roasted Cauliflower

2 T olive oil
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
Coarse salt/ground cumin/pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425
Toss cauliflower with olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin
Cook 25 minutes (stirring once during cooking time)

A little more about Pinot Noir (pee-no nwahr)
Pinot Noir is nearly black in color. The berry clusters grow in a pinecone-like shape. These attributes of the varietal are reflected in its name--"pine" and "black" in French.

Historically associated with the Burgundy region of France, Pinot Noir is now grown around the world. Known for being fickle and difficult to grow, Pinot Noir producers tend to be some of the most passionate you'll find.

NOTE: This was what I made on Tuesday. When Wednesday dinner time rolled around, I threw in the towel and picked up burritos, which we ate on the couch while watching "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Giving thanks – and wine recommendations

Gratitude is soul food and among the many things that I am grateful for, I'm thrilled to share my Thanksgiving wine recommendations... 

(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)  

I’m thankful for my family and my children’s limitless curiosity that insists I experience the world anew. I’m thankful for my husband’s laughter because it fills our home with playfulness. I’m thankful for the telephone because it allows me to speak with my mom on a daily basis and for the smallest of reasons.
I’m thankful for my friends, for the ones I’ve had since kindergarten and those I’ve made this year. I’m thankful that I enjoy cooking – when my hands prepare food that feeds my loved ones’ bodies and souls, I am happy.
And I am thankful for wine – for the conversations I’ve had over it, for the celebrations I’ve toasted with it and for the way it is a living thing that changes with time.
I try to give thanks year-round, but on the last Thursday of November, our grand celebration of gratitude takes place – and I’m already preparing.
To help with your Thanksgiving endeavors, I’ve reached out to local wine experts again this year to gather wine recommendations for your feast-family-and-friends-filled table.
For the rest of the story, head over to the Los Altos Town Crier.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Terroir: Finding where you are in a glass of wine

(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)

I’ll never forget my first glass of good red wine. It happened while I was in college, full of heady independence and curiosity. It helped that I had this glass with a dear girlfriend named Dawn. Dawn knew the chef of a small, hole-in-the-wall, jewel of a restaurant tucked away in the parking lot of a boat-launch site. He pointed us in the direction of the right wine for our dinner. I am forever grateful for that first, extraordinary introduction.
The wine was a Wild Horse Pinot Noir, and two things happened when I drank it. First, my eyes sprung wide open to the way wine amplifies the pleasure of a meal. Second, the wine was produced near where I lived at the time, and I was blown away by its ability to encapsulate that place.
Called “terroir” in French, a sense of place is what I believe makes wine a mainstay in the life of any true bon vivant. The way a bottle of wine exists as a time capsule of the geography, climate and geology of where it was produced is delicious and – pardon the pun – intoxicating.

The notion of terroir may be intimidating at first. Imagine the ability to blind taste a wine and accurately call out where, when and what it was from. But terroir can be as comfortable as recognizing a village you’ve visited just by seeing a photo of the surrounding hills. Once you have a sense of a place, you can taste that place in the wine you drink.
For the rest of the story, head over to the Los Altos Town Crier.
savannah-chanelle is a shining example of santa cruz mountains terroir