Category Archives: General

A Visit to Calistoga’s Theorem Vineyards

A Wagyu slider with black truffles on house-baked brioche -- part of the "Garden & Glass'' tasting at Theorem Vineyards.
A Wagyu slider with black truffles on house-baked brioche — part of the “Garden & Glass” tasting at Theorem Vineyards.

It’s not by accident that the names of both Theorem Vineyards and its signature Voir Dire Cabernet Sauvignon allude to science and truth.

After all, the 60-acre Calistoga property was originally purchased in the late 1800s by Dr. Richard Beverly Cole, who not only was San Francisco’s first practitioner of obstetrics and California’s first surgeon general, but also built what is believed to be the first school house in the Napa Valley on that land. The Cole Valley neighborhood in San Francisco is named after him, too.

In 2012, the property was purchased by husband-and-wife, Jason Itkin and Kisha Itkin, who were merely looking for a second home. He is a Houston-based top trial lawyer who famously won an $8 billion record-setting verdict against Johnson & Johnson, and she is a former reservoir engineer who worked in the oil and energy industry.

Six years later, though, they opened their winery there. They now produce eight wines with their winemaker Andy Jones, former assistant wine maker for Thomas Brown; and consulting winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, one of the valley’s most distinguished winemakers.

You can taste those wines, if you’re fortunate enough to be one of only 17 guests the winery is permitted to host each day, Wednesday through Sunday, by appointment-only. But it will cost a pretty penny. Lavish and over-the-top, the standard wine tasting with cheese is $200 per person. If you’re feeling flush, tack on additional $95 per person for the “Garden & Glass” option that includes substantial gourmet noshes featuring beef from cows with Wagyu genetics raised on the Itkins’ 20,000-acre Theorem Ranch in Montana, as well as veggies and herbs harvested from the winery’s own culinary garden.

One of several tasting areas at the winery.
One of several tasting areas at the winery.
And another tasting area.
And another tasting area.

Last month, I had a chance to do just that when I was invited as a guest to tour the winery and experience its “Garden & Glass” that began with a welcoming glass of its 2022 Sauvignon Blanc, a zippy white with nice minerality plus more body than expected, thanks to time spent fermenting in neutral French oak.

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A Slice of Cool

If this doesn't help beat the heat, nothing will.
If this doesn’t help beat the heat, nothing will.

The heat is on.

Is it ever.

I may not have the ability to turn the master switch to “off” to quash this heatwave. But I can definitely cool things down deliciously with “Frozen Yoghurt-Honey Parfait with Flash-Roasted Blueberries.”

Creamy, tangy, and — yes — frosty, it’s like ice cream without the need for an ice cream maker.

The recipe is from the new cookbook, “Fruitful” (Kyle Books), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Sarah Johnson, an American-born pastry chef who trained at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, and now splits her time at two United Kingdom restaurants, Spring and Heckfield Place. Hence, the UK spelling of “yoghurt” in this recipe before you think that a typo.

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Liven Up Your Cooking with The Spice Lab

Grilled bread with cheese, tomatoes and basil that gets a generous sprinkling of The Spice Lab's Pizza Dust Seasoning.
Grilled bread with cheese, tomatoes and basil that gets a generous sprinkling of The Spice Lab’s Pizza Dust Seasoning.

How to make a simple slice of grilled bread taste like actual pizza?

Just shake on a generous amount of The Spice Lab’s Pizza Dust Seasoning.

Close your eyes, take a bite, and you’ll taste the sweetness of tomato, the pungency of garlic, a kiss of anise from fennel, a hit of warm spice from Aleppo pepper, and a subtle bread-y note from yeast flakes. In short, a close approximation to your favorite sausage pizza.

Based in Pompano Beach, FL, The Spice Lab is a family-owned business that turns out award-winning sea salts and unique seasoning blends that are all natural and kosher certified, with a good many of them gluten-free. The company, housed in a sweeping 125,000-square-foot facility, also makes custom blends, including the Nom Nom Paleo seasoning powders for best-selling cookbook author Michelle Tam.

The Spice Lab’s chef-in-residence Fiona Kennedy recently reached out to send samples for me to try.

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Dining At Mustards Grill

Flowering artichokes in the garden at Mustards Grill.
Flowering artichokes in the garden at Mustards Grill.

It’s a massive achievement for a restaurant to endure long enough to celebrate 41 years in business.

It’s even more impressive when that restaurant continues to draw crowds day in and day out of both locals and visitors alike.

Mustards Grill in Napa is that restaurant.

Chef-Owner Cindy Pawlcyn opened her restaurant in 1983, naming it for the brilliant yellow wild mustard flowers that bloom all over the Napa Valley in spring. It didn’t take long for it to turn into one of the valley’s first destination restaurants.

So, when I found out my husband had never dined there, I was flabbergasted. That omission was remedied last week when we were headed to Napa, armed with a reservation at Mustards.

The ever-popular mountain of onion rings.
The ever-popular mountain of onion rings.

We dined on a Tuesday night. But you would have sworn it was a Saturday evening, as the dining room was packed, with even a couple parties waiting outside in hopes that a table would open up soon.

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Jamming on Jamaretti Cookies

A play on the classic thumbprint cookie.
A play on the classic thumbprint cookie.

As a kid, life sure seemed to move at a languid pace. Summer vacation seemed never-ending. Our favorite holidays seemed to take forever to come around.

Not so as an adult.

Life now seems to whoosh by at Millennium Falcon hyper speed, making us ever grateful for all the shortcuts and time-saving tips we can get.

Enter “Jamaretti” cookies from Martha Stewart.

You know those classic jam-filled thumbprint cookies you made as a kid, rolling balls of dough one by one, then pressing your thumb into each one before spooning jam into every single crevice? Yeah, those ones.

Well, this recipe streamlines that process by making these cookies more like biscotti.

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