Category Archives: gourmet food

Yomiuri Giants Game in Japan

Be forewarned: 
this post has nothing to do with wine.  Maybe a little bit with beer though.  Actually, that’s a good way to


Beer girl pouring in the stands.  She is carrying beer in a backpack, and pouring from the tap for fans.  


Lori and I were in Japan, Kyoto and Tokyo, last week.  Aside from the typical, and great,
sightseeing – cherry blossoms, shrines and temples, Mt. Fuji, castles – we went
to a baseball game.  The game,
which took place in Tokyo, had the visiting
Yomiuri Giants playing the Yakult Swallows.  The Giants wear
orange and black, like our San Francisco Giants.  We were able to get seats on the visitor side of the stadium,
and wore SF Giants shirts. 


Lori and I at the game.  

Some of the differences between going to a game I’ve already
mentioned:  beer served from a keg
carried by a beer girl in the stands, and visitor and home sides of the
stadium.  The other major
difference is the cheering of the fans. 
There were significant cheering groups in the outfield bleachers,
thousands of fans for each team. 
When their team was at bat, the cheering was loud and non-stop.  Also, each group of fans has their own
totem to wave when their team scores. 
For the Giants, it was orange and black hand towels.  (Anyone remember the initial Terrible
Towels from the Pittsburgh Steelers?) 
For the Swallows it was red and blue umbrellas.  I wonder how many people have been
injured with those?  Also, with
respect to cheering, the home team has cheerleaders that come out between
innings.  Last thing to mention
with respect to cheering:  No doing
the wave!    


First pitch!

So how about that game?  The visiting Giants go down in order in the top of the 1st
inning, then the Swallows leadoff hitter jumps on the first pitch and hits a
home run to right.  There’s some
back and forth from there, pretty entertaining back and forth with a few home
runs hit, until we get to the bottom of the 8
th inning with the
Giants up 5-3.  They bring in a
relief pitcher, and the ball starts flying around the yard.  Tie game before getting the first out
of the inning, and by the time it was over, the Swallows had scored 4, and had
a 7-5 lead going into the 9
th inning.  So the Swallows brought in their closer.  He was only marginally better than the
Giants reliever from the previous inning, in that he only gave up 3 runs, not
4.  But that was enough to
surrender the lead.  So Giants are
up 8-7 going into the bottom of the 9
th.  And their closer comes in, and gets the first 2 outs pretty
easily.  Then, with the count 2
balls and 2 strikes, and the Giants fans thinking about the post-game beer, the
Swallows cleanup hitter takes it deep, near the top of the left field
bleachers.  Silence from the Giants
side of the field, jubilation from the Swallows side.  And on the field, words were exchanged between pitcher and
batter, resulting in both benches emptying.  No punches thrown though.  The next batter up gets a hit, but finally the Giants get
the last out of the 9
th, so on to extra innings.  (Don’t these people know I have to be
out of the hotel before 6am the next morning to take the bullet train down to
Nagoya?  I can’t stay for a late
game, which is now at about 4 hours, but we can’t leave, that just wouldn’t be
right.)  In the top of the 10
the Giant’s catcher, Abe, hits his second home run of the game, a no-doubter
well up the bleachers in right field. 
The right fielder almost hurt his neck turning and watching it fly over
his head, while not moving his feet. 
Fortunately for my business schedule, the Giant’s pitcher for the bottom
of the 10
th was able to get the Swallows out in order, and we were
able to head off into the night happy, as the Giants had won.  Side note:  the San Francisco Giants beat the LA Dodgers in extra
innings the “day before”.  With
time differences, the SF Giants won their game only a couple of hours before
first pitch the next day for the Yomiuri Giants game. 


Different food at the baseball game.  

The food at the game was also different.  There were hot dogs and hamburgers, but also Japanese food, and then other things, like this vendor serving Vietnamese Banh Mi baguette sandwiches.  Actually, these were pretty darn good!  

I hope you enjoyed this vacation interlude.  Back to wine in the next post!







Risotto Palooza

We were in Southern California a couple of weeks ago.  My sister turned 50, and that was
sufficient motivation to get in the car and make the trek down I-5.  More on her birthday dinner in the next
post.  This post is about the
risotto palooza at my brother’s house the night before the birthday


Apparently my brother really likes to make risotto.  Who knew?  Not me, or Lori, that’s for sure.  Since we had an evening available, we connected for dinner,
and he decided to make risotto. 
Not just one recipe, but two different risottos.  I’m a bit new to this, having just made
my first risotto only a month ago. 
(See my blog post on risotto and pinot noir.)  But I
like risotto.  It’s like a blank
canvas, and the cook can do whatever he/she wants with the meal.  Different meats, vegetables, flavors,
styles; it’s all available to the cook/artist.  The other nice thing about risotto, and the different meals,
is that wine pairing isn’t really formal. 
Just go into the cellar and choose something good, and it will work just


My brother went with a seafood risotto with shrimp and
scallops and some vegetables, and some nice lemon accents, and a balsamic
risotto with chicken.  The seafood
risotto was wonderful, with lots of different layers of flavor and texture.  The balsamic risotto was very good, but
a bit one-note on the flavors, and needed some vegetables or something else for
more texture.  Next time. 


For wines we went with a 2007 Matanzas Creek Merlot, Sonoma County, and a
2006 Brian Benson Syrah, Paso Robles.  I
wouldn’t say that I’m not a fan of Merlot, but I don’t drink a lot of Merlot,
mainly because most Merlots are sort of washed out wines without much going
on.  There are a few producers in
California, though, that know what they’re doing with Merlot, and Matanzas
Creek has consistently been in that group.  And this bottle didn’t disappoint.  It also worked great with the risotto.  The other interesting point about this
bottle was that it was purchased at the winery, when Lori and my sister in law
were up there wine tasting.  So it
had come full circle, from Lori recommending the winery and wine, to them
purchasing it, to having it available when we came over a few years later.  Must be good karma. 


We had never had a bottle of Brian Benson wine before, but
we knew of him.  His parents are the proprietors of Dark Star Cellars, and were friends with Winemaker B when he was living in Paso
Robles.  So we were excited to open
this bottle, and see what he had done. 
We’re assuming that this was one of his first vintages, and it was
great.  We’ll have to stop by on
our next trip to Paso Robles and taste more. 






Sierra Foothills Wine and Dine

December and January are big months in our family for
celebrations.  Aside from the usual
holidays we have a daughter in law’s birthday, my father’s birthday, my mother
in law’s birthday, Winemaker B’s birthday, my sister’s birthday, and my
brother’s anniversary.  More than
any other two months on the calendar. 


For my mother in law’s birthday, we headed up to her place
in the Sierra foothills.  Usually
there is snow on the ground this time of year, but not this year.  Drought years are interesting, and this
year looks particularly bad.  From
a wine/grape perspective, there are likely two issues.  First, the warm weather now may cause
early budding of the vines which, if there is a late frost, will significantly
impact grape quantities.  Second,
just getting water to the vines will be interesting.  Older vines with deeper root systems will likely have a
distinct advantage this year. 


But enough of drought. 
We were up there to celebrate, and so we did.  Nothing too elaborate or fancy, but we took Lori’s mom and
her husband, and their best friends, out to their restaurant of choice, the
Sierra Banquet Hall in Camino, near Placerville.  Their facility is a modern log “cabin” that the owners built
themselves.  Cabin does not do the
structure justice, as it is two stories, and just beautiful.  So a good start, just walking in to the
beautiful building, and finding a nice fire going in the fireplace.  While the menu had pretty good variety
to it, 5 of the 6 of us opted for steak that night, either filet mignon or
ribeye.  And we were not


For wine we brought a bottle from a local winery, a 2008
Auriga Wine Cellars Barbera, El Dorado County.  We’ve posted about Auriga before, as it is conveniently near my mother in law’s house, has good
wine and very nice people.  We’ve
used it for rehearsal dinner wine, as well as enjoying individual bottles.  We had brought up the bottle of wine
from home, but luckily for me I had a few minutes to spare during the day, and
was able to go say hi and pick up a half case.  (Their French Columbard sparkling wine, a few bottles of Zinfandel and more
Barbera, since you asked.)  The
Barbera went great with our steaks. 
I’ll probably be stopping in again next year for some birthday






New Year’s Eve Food and Wine

New Year’s Eve is always interesting for the food and wine
choices.  Champagne is a staple,
but what else? 


This year Lori and I spent New Year’s Eve in Santa
Cruz.  Actually, we spent the whole
week in Santa Cruz, and it was great. 
We haven’t relaxed that much in a while.  We saw a bunch of movies, trying to get a head start on all
the ones up for awards.  (American
Hustle was my favorite of the ones we saw.)  We met up with some old friends one night, and got each other
caught up on our lives and our childrens’ lives. 


New Year’s Eve, though, was just the two of us.  We went to Michael’s on Main, one of
our favorites in the area.  We’ve
eaten there a number of times, including hosting a wedding rehearsal dinner
there a couple of years ago.  They
had a 4-course prix fixe menu for the night:


of appetizers, served with a complementary glass of sparkling wine

of green salad or lobster bisque

of steak, salmon wellington or spinach and artichoke raviolis

of cheesecake or chocolate mousse


The appetizers and sparkling wine were nothing to write home
about, or write in a blog about. 
Lori had the salad, which she enjoyed, while I had the bisque, which I
thought was one of the best I had had. 
Not too thick, and plenty of lobster meat.  For her main course, Lori had the salmon wellington, which
was excellent.  I had the raviolis,
also excellent.  And we had one of
each of the desserts, sharing them both. 


We brought a bottle for the evening:  Windy Oaks Estate, 2005 Pinot Noir
Estate Cuvée, Schultze Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.  Over the last 10 years, Windy Oaks has
consistently produced great Pinot Noir from their small winery at the southern
end of the Santa Cruz Mountains appelation, and this bottle was right
there.  It worked great with the
delicate fish and vegetarian dishes we ate. 


Another year in the books, a new year before us like an open
stretch of ocean.  We’re hoping for
us, and for you, that the only big waves are seen from a distance, and it’s
smooth sailing (and eating and drinking) in 2014. 





Seafood Risotto and Pinot Noir

The holiday season provides interesting opportunities for food and wine and family and fun.  Here was one of our weekend days in December:  

– Lori took granddaughter Elli to a local (Santa Rosa area) production of the Nutcracker.  Nice little production, front row seats, and great grandmother-granddaughter special time.  

– Daughter-in-law Kim went and got a massage.  Some wonderful me-time for her.  

Winemaker B and his father (that would be me) took care of his son Eden for the afternoon, and took responsibility for dinner.  

On the menu for the evening was Seafood Risotto.  (The recipe can be found on our Food and Wine Pairing page.)  I had never made risotto before, so this was going to be a bit of an adventure.  Lori and I stopped at the fish market on the way up to Santa Rosa and picked up some bay scallops and salmon, both of which looked quite good.  We already had all the other ingredients needed.  Once in Santa Rosa, we all split up to do our thing, as noted above.  This included taking Eden for a walk to the grocery store to get a nice loaf of fresh bread to go with the meal.  Then the cooking started.  

The chef (that would be me again) needed some white wine, both for himself and for the risotto.  So out came a bottle of 2012 Armida Chardonnay, Russian River Valley.  Nice, basic Chardonnay, good bottle to get things started.  Winemaker B pitched in by cooking the fish, and taking care of Eden himself while I cooked.  I found that risotto is a bit of work, as once you put the rice in and start adding the stock, you have to keep on stirring.  It ended up being about 30 minutes of adding stock and stirring, adding more stock and stirring, until the risotto got to the right consistency.  Then the seafood and other ingredients were added in, and we were ready to eat.  

Our younger son, Jacob, his wife Brittany and their daughter Zinnia joined us for dinner.  We had interesting wines to go with our risotto:  

2011 Arista Pinot Noir, Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley

2011 Armida Pinot Noir, Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley

Yes, two Pinot Noirs made from grapes from the same vineyard.  That was fun!  The wines were quite different, with the Armida having bigger fruit and body, and the Arista being a bit smoother, with better finish.  Both of the wines worked great with the risotto, which turned out good enough for us to publish the recipe.  

It was a great day.  I hope your holiday season went well also.  

Best wishes for a happy, healthy 2014!  



New York City Food and Wine Visit

Lori and I visited New York City the first week of October.  Just for fun, although the timing of
the trip was determined by my parents being in New York City and having an
apartment where we could crash. 


A quick digression here.  My parents are spending the month of October in NYC.  At 85 and 80 years old, they have
rented an apartment in NYC (midtown/Hells Kitchen/Theater Disctrict area), and
are spending the month going to the ballet, symphony, theater, museums, restaurants
and doing everything else that NYC has to offer.  Plus seeing friends and family and doing a little business
while out there.  (Retirement is just a word to them.)  They’re both
using canes to get around now, but this only seems to just slow them down a bit, not stop
them from doing anything.  So while
this is, at first glance, incredibly foolish of them, it’s actually a wonderful
thing they’re doing.  They are
setting the bar quite high, and I hope in 30 years Lori and I will be able to
do something similarly crazy and wonderful. 


So Lori and I flew in to Newark a few weeks ago, taking the airport bus into Manhattan.  Tuesday was spent relaxing, and going
to a taping of the Daily Show with John Stewart.  More on that great experience in a separate post.  Wednesday, before going to the theater,
we ate at
ViceVersa.  Nice Italian restaurant within walking
distance of the apartment, and of the theater we were heading to.  We had an Acacia 2011 Carneros Pinot
Noir with dinner, and it worked quite well.  


Thursday we went to the theater again.  But before the theater, we met Sean and
Jessica, friends of our son Brandon. 
They were, coincidently, also on vacation in NYC.  So we invited them over to the
apartment for wine and cheese, and they also brought some desserts:  chocolate covered strawberries, cannoli,
éclair.  We picked up a bottle of Ridge Vineyards 2011 Three Valleys.  This
is a blend of 65% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignane, 3% Mataro, 2%
Alicante Bouschet, 1% Grenache.  We
love the Ridge Zinfandel-based blends. 
This one was little heavier on the Petite Sirah than we would usually
like for an afternoon wine, but still quite good. 


Friday we splurged on lunch, going to one of the top
restaurants in NYC,
Gotham Bar and
in the Greenwich Village area. 
They have a great prix fixe lunch deal, which we all had.  We started with appetizers of either
salad or a roasted vegetable soup (see photo below). 
For the second course, the ladies had the goat cheese ravioli with lamb
shank, while my father and I both had the cod.  For dessert there was chocolate cake with Almond ice cream,
a trio of sorbets, and a crumble. 
We had a 2010 Wind Gap Pinot Noir, Woodruff Vineyards, Santa Cruz
Mountains with lunch.  Excellent
wine, but still a bit young. 


What a great vacation!  I hope we get to do this again.  



Derby Fifteen 10 and Red Snapper

Another night, another dinner, another bottle of wine.  Actually, we don’t have wine every night with dinner.  And not every dinner is gourmet.  Unless you consider burritos and tuna melts and sloppy joes as gourmet.  Tonight wasn’t really gourmet either, but somewhere in between.  Red snapper (wild, locally caught, and that sound you hear is Lori and I patting each other on the back for that), bok choy and Israeli couscous.  The red snapper was sautéd in some olive oil, seasoned with lavender salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme and paprika.  At the very end of the cooking, fresh garlic, lemon juice and white wine were added.  Not gourmet, just a casual night of pulling ingredients and having it all work out well. 

We needed a bottle of wine to go with this.  Sometimes the wine cellar is first in, first out, when we’re going for the older wines, and sometimes it’s last in, first out, especially for the white wines.  There up front was the 2010 Derby Wine Estates Fifteen 10, their white Rhone blend from the Paso Robles area.  The blend for this year is 34% Roussanne, 27% Viognier, 21% Marsanne, 9% Grenache Blanc and 9% Picpoul Blanc.  I have no clue about that last varietal; never heard of it before.  But whatever the blend, this was great with dinner.  Nicely balanced, enough acid to really work with food, enough fruit to add to the flavor mix in the mouth.  And it’s still great after dinner, maybe even better. 

Another case of going to the winery (see our post from visiting this past summer), enjoying the tasting, buying the wine, and enjoying it again when opened.  We’re going to have to figure out how to get more of this wine. 



A Day in Carmel

Lori and I went to Carmel on Labor Day.  Carmel is always a nice day, wandering around the shops, having lunch.  And the drive itself, following Monterey Bay around from the northern tip at Santa Cruz to the southern tip at Monterey and Carmel, can be beautiful.  It’s actually a reminder of what California was and still is, as you go from coastal mountains with coastal redwoods to the agriculture of the mid-bay area (Castroville artichokes!) then to the pines of the Monterey Peninsula.  All with beautiful sandy beaches, or lively and lovely tide pools. 

This trip we ate at a restaurant new to us, Dametra Cafe, which bills itself as a “Ristorante Mediterraneo”.  Indeed it is a Mediterranean restaurant, with a Greek-based menu, but with dishes from as far away as Persia.  There were also dishes from Israel, Italy, Lebanon and Turkey that we noticed on the menu.  We went pretty simple for lunch, with Lori ordering the chicken shawarma sandwich and a gyro for me.  Portions were more than generous, and the food was delicious.  Their wine list is a bit limited, but Lori found a Penfolds Cab Shiraz, and I had a glass of a nice Spanish Garnacha Syrah blend.  Great atmosphere there, very friendly, and adding to the Mediterranean feeling was the post-lunch serenade of the restaurant, in Spanish, by the Mexican chef. 

Shopping in Carmel is always fun, and we found a few things, including being able to check off a few boxes for the holiday gifts.  And not to worry, we bought something for each of the grandkids. 

After Carmel, we decided to take the driving tour of 17 Mile Drive.  This is a scenic road that winds through the Pebble Beach area, through golf courses, mansions and some great California coastline.  Just a beautiful day for that.  I don’t know if you can see them in the photograph, but seals were all over the rocks just offshore. 

Finally, on the way home, we made a pilgrimage to Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing.  Only one of the best fish restaurants around, although not particularly fancy.  We picked up a quart of clam chowder for dinner, actually getting off pretty easy.  But it was Labor Day, and we weren’t sure if the boats had actually been out, so we didn’t worry about picking up any fish. 

Hope you had a great holiday weekend also!



Summer Means Plums

A couple of months ago, talking about Spring, I showed a picture of a bit of our plum tree in blossom.  (I think it’s a “Santa Rosa” plum tree.)  This tree has managed, over the 21 years since we first planted it, to produce some decent crops.  However, over the last 5 years, the crops have been outstanding.  Maybe the roots finally hit groundwater?  Maybe it just takes that long for one of these to mature?  I have no idea why, but we are now getting over 100 lbs of plums each year from this tree. 

In the past, we’ve Plum BBQ Sauce, which actually is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  This year, while we may make some of that BBQ sauce again, we’re working on other recipes.  Lori made a Chipotle Plum Sauce – sweet, smoky, tangy, delicious – which is a new one for us.  And the other night we had shrimp with a Plum Salsa, accompanied by Plum Tropical Smoothies.  The smoothies were just made up on the spot, as some hard alcohol seemed appropriate for that evening.  Here’s approximately what went into those drinks:

1 cup diced plums

1 cup diced frozen mango

½ cup diced pineapple

6 oz rum

3 oz peach brandy


Put it all in a blender, and away you go.  Unfortunately, as can be seen from the photo, we had no umbrellas or anything fancy, so just regular straws for the drinks. 

The Plum Salsa effectively just replaces tomatoes in a salsa with plums.  The color is about the same, but the plums are a bit firmer.  Here are the ingredients:

8 plums, diced small

1 red bell pepper, diced small

4 green onions, fine dice

½ red onion, diced small

1/3 bunch cilantro, fine dice

1 jalapeño pepper, fine dice

Juice of 2 limes

Salt and pepper to taste

After putting everything together, take about half the mixture and run it briefly through the food processor or blender, then recombine with the other half of the salsa.  I highly recommend letting it sit overnight to let the flavors come together.  It was good the first night, but we tasted too many of the individual flavors.  The next day it was much better.  Makes about 3 cups salsa. 

Enjoy the drinks and salsa, and if you need some plums, just let us know.  We have just a few! 



Best Father’s Day Ever

Father’s Day is an interesting “holiday”.  Usually I don’t worry too much about it.  A card for my dad, and a phone call to him, are usually the extent of my responsibilities.  My theory on Father’s Day is that our wives care so much about getting their recognition on Mother’s Day (deservedly so!) that they project this same level of caring onto us for Father’s Day.  Well, not that I don’t like Father’s Day, but I’m not sure I’d miss it if it were to disappear from the calendar. 


Unless all Father’s Days start to turn out like this most recent one, which wasn’t a Father’s Day, but a 3 day process. 


First there was the Sunday, the actual day of Father’s Day.  First, Lori dropped me off at Oakland Coliseum to meet Brandon and Jacob and oldest grandchild Elli for an Oakland A’s baseball game.  It wasn’t Elli’s first game, but she did have a pretty good time at the game.  And while the boys were going and getting us some food and beer, we managed to get a reasonably good self-photo of the two of us.  (Degree of difficulty is a bit higher on this because of my ancient phone.)  We stayed through the 5th inning, when the A’s took the lead for good over the Mariners.  Then we headed out, all of us heading up to Santa Rosa, to have dinner with their wives, and the other grandchildren (at the table with us, but at 4 months and 6 six weeks old, they really didn’t participate), and my wife, who had driven up there after dropping me off.  Great barbeque rib dinner, with everyone contributing a dish.  The new recipe was from daughter-in-law Brittany, who cooked potatoes wrapped in bacon.  Essentially this was medium sized red potatoes, quartered and wrapped in a slice of bacon, then baked for 45 minutes.  Oh yeah.  Add in a bottle of 2011 Armida Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Goldmine Vineyard, and it was a great meal.  Only 1 glass though, since I was driving home. 


The next day I drove back up to Napa Valley, for a round of golf with Brandon.  It was customer appreciation day from a couple of his vendors, and they set up a golf tournament at Eagle Vines Golf for their customers.  Bruce, the Armida co-owner, was supposed to go with Brandon, but he couldn’t.  So my next Father’s Day present was a beautiful day playing golf, where all I had to do was buy the raffle tickets for their benefit event.  Great way to spend the day. 


Then on Tuesday, since Sunday was with the kids and Monday was golfing, Lori made a special Father’s Day dinner.  Serious comfort food:  meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas.  One of my all time favorite meals from when I was small.  Add in a bottle of 2011 Auriga Zinfandel, El Dorado (“Uncle Bud and Chuck’s favorite” it says on the label), and it was a great cap off to my 3 day Father’s Day celebration.  By the way, this was another very good Auriga wine.  They are fast becoming our go-to winery for the Sierra Foothills


I don’t think this one will be topped any time soon.