A Week in Sonoma

28 Jan

Rosie (my pup) and I recently spent a fantastic week in Sonoma County with Pop and SM, and I finally found a few moments to upload my photos and share some of the highlights with you.  So, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

We left LA on December 30 (Pop’s birthday) and headed north, Pop at the helm, me playing co-pilot, and Rosie and SM cuddling in the backseat…

Because our vacation rental just outside of Guerneville wouldn’t be ready for us until January 1, I arranged for us to spend a couple of nights at my good friend JSo’s family’s vacation cabin in Morro Bay, which is perfectly situated about halfway between Los Angeles and the Bay Area.  Rosie absolutely loved being right on the golf course…

Rosie enjoying the sunset in Morro Bay.

and the rest of us enjoyed the view as well as the proximity to the wonderful wine and food in and around Paso Robles.  Indeed, we had a fantastic dinner for Pop’s birthday at Il Cortile in downtown Paso Robles (try the fresh pasta with wild boar ragu!) and followed it up with a full New Year’s Eve day of wine tasting at L’Aventure (really amazing and unique red blends), Denner (awesome Rhone-style wines),* Turley (Zinfandel done right), Villa Creek (awesome wine all around and really great staff), Tablas Creek (more great Rhone-style wines AND they’re dog-friendly), and Justin before grilling up a little surf and turf back at the cabin for our own private New Year’s Eve celebration.  Perfect if you ask me.

New Year’s Day we arrived at our rental in Guerneville, a quirky three-level built into the hillside in the Redwoods just west of town, and settled in for our week of exploring the area.

The Guerneville Tree House

We started our wine tasting extravaganza the following day, sticking at first to the Russian River area nearest Guerneville, and stopping at Korbel (because who wouldn’t want to start the day with a little bubbly?), Gary Farrell, Arista, Hop Kiln and VML.  Though there were some solid offerings all around, we all agreed that Gary Farrell’s wines were by far the best of the day, not to mention the absolutely stellar view from the tasting room.  Arista and VML, of course, get props from Rosie, as they were both dog-friendly and allowed her to come inside rather than hang out in the car.

Pop and SM enjoying the view from the Gary Farrell tasting room

The next day, Pop and I got up early to take Rosie on a walk along the Russian River where the silly pooch managed to fall in trying to chase a duck.  Ah, the endless entertainment a dog provides….

Rosie, pre-dunk, along the (very cold) Russian River

With Rosie dried off and SM finally awake, we headed south to Santa Rosa, where I had set up an appointment for us to barrel taste with John and Sharon Westerhold (of Westerhold Family Vineyards) and their winemaker, Russell Bevan (who also has his own label – Bevan Cellars).  My regular readers might remember these names from my adventures in crush in 2010.  We tasted through several vintages of the Westerhold’s award-winning Syrah, and while the wine was, as always, fantastic, the company was even better.  We followed that visit up with a delicious lunch at Santa Rosa’s Pizzeria Rosso before heading back out on the road and hitting Sonoma-Cutrer and DeLoach.

Tasting through the Chardonnay flight at Sonoma-Cutrer

The following day, we decided it was time for a break from our marathon of wine tasting, so we headed to the coast, first making a quick stop in Bodega Bay and then venturing south along the Pacific Coast Highway to Tomales Bay for a picnic at the Hog Island Oyster Farm, which, the phenomenal wine aside, actually ended up being my favorite part of the entire week.  Indeed, I don’t care if you think that there is nothing more disgusting than oysters, a picnic at Hog Island is a MUST – just bring yourself something else to eat and leave the oysters for people like me who could and would eat dozens if left to our own devices.

Mmmmm.... Oysters.....

A few pointers, however…. First, be sure to reserve a table ahead of time.  We were there on a Wednesday, and it was packed.  Luckily, we had made a reservation and got one of the tables along the outside closest to the bay.

Pop, SM, and Rosie

Second, be sure to bring wine (or whatever beverages you want) as well as glasses/cups.  There’s a little bar, but why would you not take advantage of free corkage?

Me and Pop enjoying some Sauvignon Blanc with our sliders at Hog Island Oyster Farm

Third, if you want to eat anything other than oysters (e.g., sandwiches, cheese, burgers, etc.), bring it with you.  Fourth, if you’re a fan of barbecued oysters, bring your own charcoal.  Each table has its own little charcoal grill, but they do not supply the charcoal.  Pop, SM and I all prefer our oysters raw on the halfshell, but there were some other folks doing some pretty interesting stuff with theirs, like grilling up bacon that they then broke up and sprinkled on their grilled oysters, for example.  Uh, yum!

Me getting my shuck on

Fifth, bring a camera, as Tomales Bay is absolutely picturesque, and it is sure to be a day you’ll want to remember.

Gorgeous Tomales Bay

Finally, if, like us, several dozen oysters simply isn’t enough to sate your appetite for seafood, stop on your way home at Nick’s Cove, just up the road from the Hog Island Oyster Farm.  It’s a cool old restaurant right on the bay with phenomenal views, fresh Dungeness crab (when they’re in season), and some pretty awesome clam chowder.  You can dine in, of course, but we took our crabs and chowder to go, covered our dining table back at the rental with newspaper, and had our own little crab feast.  Perfect.

Having given our livers a little rest, we resumed our wine tasting extravaganza the following day.  We headed up to Healdsburg, where we had breakfast at a great little local spot called the Singletree Café (awesome chorizo breakfast burritos for me and SM and corned beef and hash for Pop), then worked our way up to the Dry Creek Valley, an area I’d definitely been looking forward to exploring, with its rows and rows of gnarled old vines…

Dry Creek Valley Old Vines

And explore we did.  We started at Zichichi, where we had a chance to barrel taste a couple of nice selections, then headed over to Dutcher Crossing, where Rosie had a chance to get out and stretch her legs a bit, and I enjoyed the wines so much that I couldn’t resist joining the club.

Rosie and her "Grandpaw" playing fetch at Dutcher Crossing

We also hit up Ferrari-Carano, where we went downstairs for the reserve tasting (not my favorite, but SM loves their Chardonnay), Papapietro Perry, which has a pretty amazing array of Pinot Noir, and Truett-Hurst.

The following morning, we headed out again, stopping first at Rochioli (which had been closed earlier in the week) before heading in the direction of the Anderson Valley.  I had hoped to be able to taste at Jordan, where they have had a chef on staff since the winery opened in the 1970s, and tastings involve pairing small bites with their delicious Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Unfortunately, one must apparently make reservations a couple of months in advance, so that will have to be part of my next trip to the area.  We did, however, manage to taste at Stryker Sonoma, Robert Young, Stonestreet, Soda Rock, Mauritson and White Oak.  Though Rosie preferred the fireplace at White Oak…

Rosie making herself at home at White Oak

and her new besties at Mauritson….

Rosie's new goal in life - to be a winery dog

it was probably the HUGE flights at Stonestreet that we humans enjoyed most.  There’s just something about being able to taste all of a winery’s offerings side by side, jumping back and forth as needed, that not only makes for a fun experience but, I think, allows you to really appreciate the sometimes subtle differences between the wines.  Plus, it makes for a great photo…

The world's biggest flight at Stonestreet

Our final day of tasting upon us, we decided to head over to Carneros, a region that actually spans the Napa-Sonoma county line.  Its location near the San Francisco Bay makes it ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and therefore gives it a special place in the hearts of the Lyman clan.  We started once again with some bubbly, this time at Domaine Carneros.  Though I’m not a huge fan of the ostentatious tasting room designed to look like a French chateau, I do like that they have tables outside overlooking the vineyards where you can taste through several flights while nibbling on some cheese and charcuterie.  (Yep, give me some cheese, and I’m a happy girl.)  We also stopped in at Cuvaison, whose thoroughly modern tasting room was much more to my liking, and Acacia, where they were trying to do a wine pairing event but may have been a little overwhelmed by the crowd.  That said, they were having some specials on several of their selections, and SM and I both bought several bottles at a steal.  From there, we headed to Bouchaine, which not only had absolutely delicious wines (I joined the club) but is also dog-friendly as long as their winery dog and your dog get along (he wasn’t there that day, but I’m pretty sure Rosie gets along with everyone).  Finally, we stopped in at Artesa, a truly modern tasting room/art gallery built into the side of a hill.  Unfortunately, this place was a bit of a zoo, which always seems to negatively affect my perception of the wine, but I do have to say that I’ve had positive experiences here as well in the past.  With sunset rapidly approaching, we hopped back in the car and dashed back up the 116 through Guerneville all the way to Jenner, where we wrapped up our week with a fabulous dinner and breathtaking view at River’s End restaurant.

The world's most amazing sunset where the Russian River meets the Pacific in Jenner

Let me just say this about Jenner – if I won the lottery tomorrow, I would build a small bed and breakfast/inn in Jenner and spend the rest of my life watching those sunsets.  In fact, anyone interested in investing?  Seriously.

And there you have it, a week in Sonoma well spent.  I came home with a case of my favorite wines from throughout the week, so stay tuned for some new recipes and pairings!


* Note that tastings at Denner are actually limited to their own club members these days and require an appointment.  I am not a club member, but my great friend LoSo is, and he was kind enough to set us up with an appointment.


Let the Holiday Season Begin!

19 Dec

I had the great pleasure of cooking last night for a pre-holiday dinner hosted by DS, a great friend and fellow foodie.  A fabulous selection of wines were gathered by Sommelier KD, and DS and I developed the following marvelous menu for a party of six.

Pre-Dinner Cocktails: Persimmon Champagne Cocktails

First Course: Persimmon-Shrimp Salad paired with 2009 Chasing Venus Pinot Gris

Entree: Red Wine Braised Short Ribs over Parsnip Puree paired with 2007 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre

Dessert: Port Brownie S'mores paired with Taylor Fladgate 10-Year Tawny Port

Cheers and happy holidays!!


A Little Culinary School Food Porn

30 Nov

I’ve been struggling mightily with how to write about my experience at Le Cordon Bleu.  The first six weeks were little more than sanitation and knife skills, and only in the past couple of weeks have we finally begun to produce anything more substantial than stocks and sauces.  One friend suggested I write about any funny or ridiculous or interesting things I or my classmates do.  There have been few such stories thus far, however, though I am most definitely trying to keep my eyes and ears open.  Part of the problem, of course, is that on the days we cook, I find myself mostly in my own little zone.

In any event, we finally cooked some food today that actually photographed well (cauliflower soup in a white bowl, after all, is not all that interesting), so I thought I’d share some photos….

Legumes Glace Brun (Vegetables with Brown Glaze)

Poireaux Vinaigrette (Leeks with Vinaigrette)

Laitue Braisee (Braised Lettuce)

Asperges Froides (Asparagus with Hollandaise)

Cheers and buon appetito!!


The CorkPopper LocaPour Project: What to Eat with the 2010 Tablas Creek Rose and the 2008 Hammersky Estate Grown Zinfandel

09 Nov

Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve done a proper CorkPopper post, especially a CorkPopper Dinner post, and I’m not going to even try to pretend I have a legitimate excuse.  I’ve just gotten out of the habit of writing every day – something I plan to remedy.  Promise.

In any event, I did manage to prepare a CorkPopper Dinner over the weekend for my best childhood friend’s brother, DM (who also happens to be one half of the team working on totally rebranding this here website – stay tuned!), and his fantastic girlfriend (who also happens to be an amazing baker/pastry chef), KC.

Though my regular readers know that I ordinarily start with a wine and design a recipe around its flavor profile, I must admit that for the first course of this dinner I started with the protein.  Before you scream, “Blasphemy!”, however, please allow me to explain.  DM’s family owns a “fish camp” up on the Northern California coast in an area well-known for its red abalone diving.  Now, I grew up eating fresh abalone that Pop would gather during our summers on the boat, but, due in part to overfishing and in part to a foot disease that wiped out a significant portion Southern California’s abalone population, there has been a moratorium on diving for abalone in Southern California for well over a decade.  When DM and KC found out how much I love abalone, they offered to bring me some – an offer I obviously couldn’t pass up, as it has literally been years since I had any.

Growing up, my favorite preparation for abalone were what Pop called “ab rolls” – thin abalone steaks pounded with a tenderizer, soaked in milk, dipped in egg, dredged in breadcrumbs, rolled around Monterey Jack cheese and an Ortega chile and roasted on the grill….. yum.  I was curious to try something a little different for this CorkPopper Dinner, however, which brings me to the recipe for Pan-Fried Abalone with Lemon-Caper Sauce.  I elected to pair this dish with the 2010 Tablas Creek Rose because the dry but fruity and bright wine is an excellent foil for both the slight sweetness of the abalone meat and the briny capers.

Pan-Fried Abalone with Lemon Caper Sauce

Serves 4


-       4 abalone steaks, each approximately ½ thick

-       1 pint whole milk

-       1 egg

-       ½ cup panko breadcrumbs

-       Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

-       2 tablespoons olive oil

-       2 lemon wedges

-       3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

-       1 tablespoon capers, rinsed

-       ¼ cup dry white (or rose!) wine

-       Juice of ½ lemon


Lightly pound the abalone steaks until tender but not so much they fall apart.  Soak the pounded steaks in the milk.  Crack the egg in a small bowl and beat lightly.  Place the panko in another small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Dip each steak in the egg and dredge it in the panko, then allow to rest on a plate for about 10 minutes.

Preheat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and 1 tablespoon butter.  Add the abalone steaks and cook about 1-2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Squeeze the lemon wedges over the steaks before removing them to a paper towel-covered plate while you prepare the sauce.

Quickly wipe the same pan with a clean, dry paper towel and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.  Once melted, add the capers and sauté about 2-3 minutes.  Add the wine and lemon juice and continue to cook until reduced slightly.

Place a steak on each of four plates and spoon some sauce over each.  Serve immediately.

Though the weather in Southern California has been all over the map in the last couple of weeks, I’m definitely finding myself in an Autumn kind of mood, craving hot apple cider, braised meats, and red wines.  As such, I elected to focus on a completely different wine from a completely different winery for the night’s main course.  The 2008 Hammersky Estate Zinfandel is everything the Tablas Creek Rose is not – dark and earthy and a wine that just screams for a cool Autumn evening and a big meaty meal.  My solution?  Wild Mushroom-Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Red Wine Mushroom Reduction – a big hit even though I learned that neither DM nor KC are fans of mushrooms!

Wild Mushroom-Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Red Wine Mushroom Reduction

Serves 4 (with plenty for leftovers!)

Ingredients for the Lamb

-       1 bunch fresh spinach (you can also substitute chard, if desired), roughly chopped

-       Extra virgin olive oil

-       1 tablespoon unsalted butter

-       5-6 large shallots, finely minced (about 1 cup)

-       1 pound mixed wild mushrooms (e.g., portabella, shiitake, crimini, morel, chanterelle), stemmed and finely minced

-       1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (or ½ cup purchased breadcrumbs)

-       1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced

-       1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely minced

-       Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

-       1 egg, lightly beaten

-       1 5- to 6-pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied and trimmed of extra fat (ask your butcher)

-       3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Preparation for the Lamb

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet.  Add the spinach (or chard) and sauté until soft.  Remove the greens from the skillet and set aside.

Add the butter and about 3-4 more tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the shallots and sauté until translucent but not browned, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, stir, and cover.  Allow to cook until mushrooms are soft, stirring regularly, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove the mushrooms from the heat, stir in the greens, and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, rosemary, and thyme.  Stir in the cooled mushroom mixture, and season to taste with salt and pepper before stirring in the beaten egg.

Lay 4 6- to 8-inch lengths of kitchen twine out on a cutting board.  They should be parallel to each other and about 2 inches apart (depending on how wide your lamb leg is).  Lay out the butterflied leg of lamb on top of the twine with the ends of the twine showing along the edges that will be rolled.  Season the surface of the lamb generously with salt and pepper, then spread the mushroom mixture all over the top of the lamb.  Take one side of the lamb and begin rolling it like a roll of wrapping paper toward the other end.  Secure the roll using the twine, tying it tight enough to make the roll as compact as possible without squeezing out all the yumminess inside.

Season the outside of the rolled up lamb with more salt and pepper and then rub with the Dijon mustard.

Roast on a rack in a large roasting pan for approximately 1 hour, until cooked to 135 degrees for medium rare.  Be sure to turn the lamb over about halfway through the cooking process and allow to rest at least 10 minutes before slicing into 1-inch slices.  Serve over your favorite mashed starch (I did mashed garnet yams) and drizzle with a generous amount of sauce (recipe below).

Ingredients for Sauce

-       3 tablespoons butter, divided

-       1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

-       1 large celery stalk, roughly chopped

-       1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped

-       1 cup mushroom trimmings (peels and stems)

-       1 teaspoon tomato paste

-       3 sprigs fresh thyme

-       1 bottle dry red wine (I used an inexpensive Zinfandel to compliment the wine I planned to pour with dinner)

-       2 cups low sodium beef stock (plus more to taste)

-       Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation for the Sauce

In a medium sauce pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Add the carrot, celery and onion (this trio is known as a mirepoix) and sweat over medium heat until slightly softened but not browned.  Add the mushroom trimmings and continue to stir until the mushrooms have also softened, about 7 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and thyme and stir another 2 minutes or so before adding the wine.  Bring to a boil to cook off the alcohol then add 2 cups of the beef stock.  Bring to a boil again and then turn the heat down and simmer until reduced by about half, or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.  If your sauce becomes too thick or too salty, you can always thin it out with a little more beef stock.

Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to squeeze out as much flavor as possible.  Rinse the sauce pot and return the sauce to it.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and finish just before serving by whisking in the remaining tablespoon butter (this is what gives French sauces their lovely glistening look).

Cheers and enjoy!!


Now We’re Cookin’!

27 Oct

I’m finishing up my fifth week of culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu, which means two things: (1) I have finals next week (it’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that!), and (2) I finally got to (kind of) prepare some food!  You see, the first six weeks of the curriculum is pretty much limited to learning about sanitation and food safety, practicing knife cuts, and learning about foundational processes and techniques primarily through watching my chef instructor lecture/demonstrate.

Today, however, our class was split into five small groups, and each group was responsible for preparing a different aspect of an incredibly complicated French salad that involved shrimp, mussels, artichokes, cauliflower, white beans, tomatoes, shallots, leeks, and a vinaigrette made of the cooking liquid from the shrimp and mussels.  I say I only kind of got to prepare some food because my group was actually assigned to distribute the ingredients needed by each of the other groups and then finish and plate the salad, which means that the only things my group actually prepared were some diced tomatoes and some finely chopped parsley.  In other words, whether this particular salad tasted good or bad was entirely out of my group’s hands.  As for the visual presentation, however, I think we nailed it….

Looks delish, right?

After next week, I’ll be moving into the next class, which means I’ll start cooking A LOT more.  Get ready, folks!!



Hey, Hey Good Lookin’

17 Oct

I’ve had quite a few requests for photos of my oh-so-sexy school uniform, so I figured I’d finally oblige.  Don’t get too excited, now.  Britney Spears (or whichever young trollop has taken her place) will not be making a music video dressed in anything even remotely resembling this…..

Flattering?  Perhaps not.  But, believe it or not, each element does actually serve a purpose.  Starting from the top, the cap obviously keeps unwanted strands of hair and beads of sweat out of your food, the neckerchief protects my neck from heat (and also catches sweat), the clean white coat reassures the customer that I run a clean kitchen (and it’s double breasted so that I can switch to the buttons on the other side in the event I have gotten the front dirty), the long white apron keeps my pants clean, the black and white gingham pants hide stains, and the black non-skid shoes (yep, those are Crocs, folks!) protect my feet from spills while simultaneously preventing me from doing a header in the middle of the kitchen.

So, while the William Morris Agency probably won’t be knocking down my door any time soon, I hope you’ll be ready to pull up a chair in my restaurant!



Practice, Practice, Practice

05 Oct

As my regular readers know, I’m in my second week of culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu Los Angeles.  Though I fully intend on writing about my experience, I must admit that the first couple of weeks have not provided much fascinating material. The first six weeks of the curriculum involves alternating between two classes – Sanitation and Culinary Foundations I.  In Sanitation we will learn about – you guessed it – sanitation and foodborne illnesses, while Culinary Foundations I focuses first on basic knife skills, then some of the core elements of French cooking – stock, mother sauces, etc.  We haven’t yet started preparing stocks and sauces yet, but we’re being tested next week on our knife skills, which means that I’ve been spending a lot of time using these…..

to practice turning these…..

into perfect little shapes such as these…..

And now, back to my knives….



A Mid-Week Mystery Box Dinner – Rigatoni with Sauteed Zucchini, Onion, Tomato, and Goat Cheese

28 Sep

Allow me to set the scene…..

You’ve just arrived home after a busy day at school/work/what-have-you, and you suddenly remember that yes, indeed, you do need to feed yourself dinner.  There is no way in hell, however, that you’re going to drag yourself to the grocery store at this point, so what do you do?  Ordering delivery/take-out is an obvious solution, but you’re really trying to spend less money on eating out, and, let’s be honest, it’s hard to order take-out for one.  The solution?  The mystery box challenge, of course, which, at home (as opposed to on a food competition show), involves raiding your fridge and pantry and creating something edible (and hopefully delicious) out of whatever you find.

Well, that is precisely what I did this evening, and I ended up with some true yumminess…

Some sauteed zucchini, red onion, garlic, and tomatoes, seasoned with sea salt, pepper and some crushed red pepper flakes, and all tossed with goat cheese, lemon zest, fresh mint and rigatoni.  Done and done.



Late Summer in a Bowl: Spicy Corn and Potato Chowder

25 Sep

In the seven weeks since I walked away from my legal career, I have caught up on years’ worth of lost sleep, spent time with family and friends I had neglected over the past five years, reminded my body what it is like to exercise regularly, watched all four seasons of Mad Men, enjoyed more than my share of Southern California sunshine, and taken steps toward starting my own business, among other things. But as lovely as this time off has been, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready for what is on tap for tomorrow – my first day of culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu Los Angeles. It’s been several years since I’ve had to prepare myself for a first day of school, of course, but the emotions are as familiar as ever – excitement, anticipation, hope, and a tinge of anxiety. And I find that I still deal with those emotions in the same way – by laying out my freshly pressed clothes (in this case, a highly unflattering uniform that involves a boxy white coat and black and white houndstooth pants with an elastic waistband) and preparing a comforting meal. Tonight’s meal, composed almost entirely from the contents of my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery, provides that much-needed comfort by capturing the very essence of end-of-summer flavors. Give it a try. You’ll see what I mean…

Spicy Corn and Potato Chowder

Serves 4

- 3 ears fresh corn
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 medium bell peppers (I used green and chocolate – use two different colors of your liking), minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 small yukon gold (or other small) potatoes, scrubbed and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
- Freshly ground pepper and sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- A handful of fresh cilantro leaves (optional)


Shuck the corn and, using a sharp paring knife, cut the kernels from the cobs. Set the kernels aside. You should end up with about 2 cups of kernels.

Place the corn cobs in a medium pot, add the water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer about 10-15 minutes. Remove the cobs and strain the liquid into a medium bowl using a fine mesh sieve.

Return the pot to the stove and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, and potatoes and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute the vegetables over medium-high heat until they start to soften. Add the cayenne pepper and cumin and stir to combine. Add the flour and stir to coat. Slowly stir in the vegetable broth, the cream, and about half of the corn broth. Add about 2/3 of the corn kernels. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fully soft, about 20 minutes.

Puree the soup until smooth using either an immersion blender or an upright blender or food processor. Add the remaining corn kernels and simmer an additional 5 minutes or so. Stir in additional corn broth if the soup is too thick, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle equal amounts of the soup into 4 large soup bowls and top with a small handful of fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with crusty grilled bread and a big, cold glass of stainless steel fermented Chardonnay.



Holy Guacamole: A Photo Tutorial

19 Sep

A few weeks ago, I was relaxing with Pop and SM on their boat, enjoying the sun, some brews, and some of my homemade guacamole.  Though making great guacamole is more of an art form than a science, Pop and SM have been hassling me to do a CorkPopper post about the guacamole I made that weekend.  What follows is my best approximation of the magic that was that particular batch.

First, here’s what you’ll need:*
1 ear fresh corn
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt
3 medium (or 2 large) ripe avocados
1 cup (about 1 medium) red onion, minced
1 tablespoon (1 large or 2 medium cloves) garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely minced chile pepper (I used a yellow chile, but you can use whatever variety you’d like depending on your tolerance for heat)
1.5 cups seeded and diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro, minced
Juice from 2 limes

And here’s what you do with it:

First, preheat your grill to medium-high.  Rub the corn cob with some olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.

Place the cob on the grill and roast, turning occasionally until it is a nice golden brown on all sides.  (Sorry – I got so excited about how delicious my corn looked that I forgot to take a photo.)  This should take about 5-7 minutes.  When the corn is done, allow it to cool slightly and then use a knife to cut the kernels off of the cob.  You should end up with about 1 cup of kernels.

While the corn is grilling, slice open the avocados and use a spoon to empty the flesh into a large bowl.  Use a potato masher to roughly mash the avocado…

Next, add the minced red onion…

Then the minced chile pepper…

And the minced garlic…

Followed by the diced tomatoes…

And the minced cilantro…

Then the corn…

And the lime juice…

And then season the mixture to taste with some more salt and pepper before serving immediately with some tortilla chips and a beer.


* This recipe will make about 4 cups.  To keep any leftover guacamole from turning brown, press some plastic wrap directly against the surface of the guacamole to prevent it from coming into contact with oxygen.

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