Taste of the Nation Events – Share Our Strength

Share our Strength is a very strong non-profit, dedicated to ending childhood hunger. As they put it:

It’s not enough to make sure America’s children have enough to eat; we must make sure they are getting the nutrition they need to live healthy, active lives.  That is why Share Our Strength’s highest priority is to make sure that every child in America gets the nutritious food he or she needs to learn, grow and thrive.

Taste of the Nation is a premier culinary event taking place in 41 cities across the US, with 100% of the proceeds going to fight childhood hunger. See the location that is nearest you.

This is a fantastic way to experience excellent cuisine in an elegant environment and do good for those less fortunate.

In Southern California, you have 2 choices.  June 3rd at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach, or June 10th at The Lot (former Warner Bros Studio) in West Hollywood.

Even if you can’t go to one of these, next time you dine out, consider donating 20% of your dinner cost to Share Our Strength!


Friday Inspiration – Secret of Happiness


Have VERY FEW RULES about how people need to be,

and how life needs to be,

 in order for YOU to be happy!

Andrea at Pelican Hill Resort

Lunch at Andrea, the flagship restaurant at Pelican Hill Resort in Newport Beach, CA is like a 2 hour vacation.  The Tuscan design is elegant and understated, with cushioned wicker furniture on the patio.  The patio.  The view from high atop a hill overlooks fountains, courtyard, golf course and ocean.  The view itself is lunch!  At my most recent visit we debated cocktails vs. wine, and ultimately ordered an Olivier Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Champ Gain , 2008.  Wine Spectator gave this 91 points, and so would I.  It was very balanced, with subtle minerality, pear, perhaps some stone fruit, a little floral and (according to one review) nuts and toast!  It went very well with the lighter dishes we ordered.

Even the bread basket is worth a mention.  Freshly baked rolls are served with a swirled blend of white bean and pine nut puree and olive tapenade, with a great olive oil drizzle.  Heavenly!

Our first courses were Warm Steelhead Trout with Herbed Mayo and Roots Salad, plus Flat Bread with Burrata, San Daniele Prosciutto and Arugula.

Both of these were delicious.  The trout had a full, wild fish taste and the sauce and garnish were a perfect complement.  What can one say about this San Daniele prosciutto?  It is like butter with a pork flavor.  It is so rich, and the serving is so big, that half of this got boxed up for another sensory experience later.

Our second course was two of the freshly house-made pastas, Smoked Ricotta Cannelloni, with Tomato Sauce and Basil, plus Buffalo Mozzarella Gnocchi with Mushroom Ragout and Parsley.

Both of these were wonderful.  The smokiness of the ricotta and the perfectly cooked pasta with a light but perfectly balanced sauce.  The gnocchi were pillowy but packed with flavor.  I don’t know how they achieve lightness and depth of flavor at the same time, but they do.

There was wine to be finished, so we ordered dessert.  The server told us they have a brand new gelato machine, and so we ordered pistachio, chocolate (on one plate) and strawberry and blood orange (other plate).  They will give you up to three flavors, but we went with 2 of our favorites on each plate.  The gelato and sorbets taste very fresh, really bringing out the flavor of each key ingredient, yet they are light and refreshing.

The patio was sparsely occupied, which is odd, because their prices are not outrageous, especially for a million dollar view.  The service was so good it was almost too attentive, but they all did a good job.

I treated myself to a spa visit after lunch.  I know that spas don’t advise this, but there is nothing like a massage after 2 glasses of French wine.  The spa is very elegant, with a separate water colonade (steam, sauna, whirlpool) for each gender, and a relaxing lounge with waterfall, flavored water, teas, magazines, and very comfy furniture.

A wonderful way to play hooky on a Friday afternoon, or as my massage therapist put it: “Award yourself a mental health bonus.”

Friday Inspiration – Earth Day

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.  ~Native American Proverb

Eat Green for Earth Day

When Earth Day was first established 42 years ago, the main purpose was to increase our consciousness about the value and wonder or our planet.  This year, Earth Day is celebrated on Sunday, 4/22, and the theme is “Mobilize the Earth.”  Many people will participate in environmental awareness activities, including recycling, legislative focus, and Acts of Green.

One of the least noticeable (but easiest to do) Earth Day activities is EATING GREEN.

Alexandra Oppenheimer, MS, RD, on this blog, suggests the following 5 easy steps:

  1. Eat more local food in season.
  2. Try to choose organic produce, or at least organic produce on the Dirty Dozen list.
  3. Purchase foods with less packaging.
  4. Choose more plant foods and less meat.
  5. Find ways to use less energy while cooking.

The Nature Conservancy is promoting Picnic for the Planet.

Psychology Today magazine has an article with 9 Tips for Mindful Eating.

Katherine Martinelli on SheKnows.com offers more tips for Eating Green on Earth Day.

And if you really want to indulge, at least make it Earth Day Cookies from TidyMom.

Orin Swift Saldo – Yummy Zin

Our friends Barry & Kathi (who stayed with us around the holidays) were kind to arrange for a bottle of wine to be sent to our table the next time we came to Andrei’s in Irvine.  They conspired with owner Natalia, who recommended the Orin Swift Saldo.  We liked it a lot!  This is a blend with 80% Zinfandel,  9% Petite Syrah, 8% Syrah, and 3% Grenache.  It was very smooth and fruity for a Zin, I’m guessing because the other grapes provide that balance.  I found it especially easy on the tannin and the oak, which I really appreciate in a Zin.  We enjoyed this with roast lamb and short rib sliders, and it went wonderfully with the food.  The label looks like a Dymo printer label, which makes it new, but retro looking.  It is 15.5% alcohol.

Here is the info from Orin Swift’s website.  They sell this for $28.  Would probably be around $60 in a restaurant.


2009 Saldo Zinfandel

Through the success of his Prisoner label, Orin Swift Cellars owner/winemaker Dave Phinney has gained access to some of the best Zinfandel vineyards in the Northern California growing community. Dave recently decided he wanted to make a high quality Zinfandel and what he created did not fit the constraints of a single AVA.

There are grapes from Sonoma, Napa, Amador, Mendocino, and Contra Costa counties. Some of these great vineyards include Monte Rosso, Eagle Point, Rockpile, Bismark, Beatty, Page Nord, Duarte, Solari, Evangehlo, Battuelo’s, Tofanelli, Korte, Mable Tiedemann, Frediani, Lewers, Alta Vista, and Bald Mountain just to name a few. Dave is so committed to this concept he is now developing his own Zinfandel vineyard in Sonoma specifically for this project as well.

The word “saldo” has many different meanings in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. In Spanish, it mainly refers to “balance on hand”, and sometimes it can mean “from here and there.” This wine represents the best of the best lots made by Dave from vineyards all across Northern California.

Winemaker Notes

The 2009 Saldo bursts with aromas of ripe strawberry and black fruits with well integrated oak. The entry is mouth coating and leads into a mid palate with structure and good acidity. The finish is bright and long with soft tannins and subtle oak sweetness. Drink now and enjoy over the next five years.


80% Zinfandel
9% Petite Syrah
8% Syrah
3% Grenache

California Appellation

Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Amador, Mendocino, and Contra Costa




25,505 cases


French and American Oak barrels, 20% new

Tasting NotesLabel


2009 | 2008 | 2007

Braised Short Ribs

For Passover, many people make brisket or a similar hearty meat dish.  I like to make Short Ribs, because I like it better than brisket.  I’ve used various adaptations of a basic recipe by Ina Garten.  In this version, I pan seared the beef (because it was boneless) rather than Ina’s oven searing (of bone-in ribs) at high temp, but I’ve done her method before, and it works too.  Key tips:  I use a lot of garlic in this, but carefully.  I mince half of it, but only add the minced garlic for the last minute of cooking the veggies, so it doesn’t burn and get bitter.  The other 4 cloves go into the broth whole.  Make some of the carrots smaller dice, and some large, and the larger pieces can be served on the platter with the beef.  This dish serves 6.  Make more if you want leftovers!

5  lbs boneless beef short ribs, trimmed of fat

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup good olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onion (2 small or one large onions), chopped (I use sweet onion, like Maui, Vidalia, or Bermuda)

4 cups large-diced celery (6 large stalks)

6 carrots, peeled – some small, some large-diced (see tips above)

8 garlic cloves, 4 minced and 4 whole

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes

1 (750-ml) bottle Cotes du Rhone (what I used) or other dry red wine

Fresh rosemary sprigs

Fresh thyme sprigs

1 tsp dried fennel

1 tsp dried sage

2 tablespoon brown sugar

4 cups beef stock (or more if needed to just cover ribs)


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Also heat a 10 qt Dutch oven on the stove (Le Creuset or similar).  Season short ribs with salt and pepper, and using a very small amount of oil, sear in small batches (do not crowd the pan) on high heat,  to just get a crust on each side (about 1 minute per side – if really thick, sear on edges too).  Minimize handling of meat and use tongs (don’t puncture the meat with a fork). Set seared ribs in large heat proof bowl while completing the rest.

Heat 2-3 tbsp additional olive oil in Dutch oven and add the onion, celery and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the MINCED garlic (leave it on top of veggies) and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes and wine, bring to a boil and cook over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Tie the rosemary and thyme together with kitchen twine and add to the pot.  Add dried fennel and sage.

Place the seared ribs on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven and add the brown sugar and beef stock. Just barely cover the ribs.  Add more stock or a cup or so of water if needed. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the Dutch oven and bake for 3-4 hours or until the meat is very tender.

You can serve at this point (which I did), spooning sauce and veggies over meat, plus straining some of the sauce and serving in a large gravy boat.

Optional:  If you want to make a thick sauce Carefully remove the short ribs from the pot and set aside. Discard the herbs and skim the excess fat. Cook the vegetables and sauce over medium heat for 20 minutes, until reduced and thickened. Put the ribs back into the pot and heat through. Serve with the vegetables and sauce.

I served this with roasted asparagus, potato kugel and matzo farfel (it was Passover!).