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Flights By Night #4: A Duck and Pinot Noir “Pearing”

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If I had only one wine left in the world to choose out of the several that I enjoy, I would keep Pinot Noir because of it’s complexity and versatility. In this edition of Flights By Night, we feature a duo of Pinot Noirs paired with sliced duck breast (graciously sent to me by Maple Leaf Farms), with a pear and carrot sauce, on a crispy sweet potato nest.

The Pinot Noirs we shared with the duck include a 2012 Willowbrook Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) and a 2012 Gavilan Pinot Noir (Chalone Appelation). When Andy and I choose two of the same varietal for a pairing, it’s fun to choose two wines we have tasted before and already know are very different. The Willowbrook is a very pleasant wine to drink all by itself with all the characteristics of a soft pinot noir, but I find the Gavilan is a better wine when it is served with food. The Gavilan is slightly effervescent and has a fuller body. That being said, we obtained many bottles of the Gavilan at a very good price, and my tastebuds fell in love with it. It became my everyday drinker for a while. Now onto the food pairing…

The sauce served on top of the duck is a take on an Alton Brown recipe–I wanted to use pears in my sauce in honor of California Pear’s Local Pear Love campaign. The major switch I made is that I used carrots instead of parsnips in the recipe, the rest I kept (mostly) the same. :)

For the sweet potato nests, I shredded two sweet potatoes in the food processor, squeezed out the excess water in them, and placed the shreds on a parchment lined and lightly oiled sheet pan (I like using a coconut oil spray for this.) I baked the shreds at 400° until they were browned and crispy. Then I plated the shreds in a circular formation to resemble little bird nests.

To prepare the duck, I seasoned the breasts with salt and cracked pepper, then started them in a cold saucepan (skin side down). I slowly brought them up in temperature and rendered out the fat, getting a nice sear/texture and brown color on the skin. Then I flipped them over to cook them a bit more and finished them in the oven for ten minutes at about 200°F. (When you remove the breasts from the oven, allow them to rest about five minutes before slicing into them. They will stay nice and juicy that way!)

You can find Maple Leaf Farms on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here. You can find California Pears on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.

You can read about other food and wine Flights By Night here!

Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden Event 25th Anniversary, October 10th, 2015

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I can’t believe it’s been four years since I met Andy at the Curtis Park Wine Tasting and now we live here in Curtis Park together. We are really looking forward to taking our annual walk over to the Sierra 2 Center in a few weeks to enjoy food, wine and friends. :)

I am happy to share information on this event (which happens to be one of the best food and wine tastings of the year in Sacramento) put together by the Sierra 2 Center, and I hope you will join us for the 25th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting!  -cg

The tradition continues at the 2015 Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event on Sacramento, October 10th, 2015 4-7pm.

Building on the success of 24 previous years, this event showcases more than 50 wineries, 20 restaurants and handpicked craft brews by owner & operator of Curtis Park’s own Pangaea Bier Cafe.

The Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event is the biggest event of its kind in Curtis Park. Event proceeds benefit SCNA, Bret Harte Elementary School and McClatchy High School. The event takes place at the Sierra 2 Center, 2791 24th Street, Sacramento, California 95818

Bring your friends with you, or come meet some new ones. This year we’re turning 25 and we’re celebrating in a VERY big way.

Event Highlights:
• Raw Oysters on the Half Shell (Scott’s Seafood on the River)
• Dad’s Kitchen
• Freeport Bakery
• Lucca Restaurant & Bar
• Localis (apart of the Broderick Restaurant family)
• Sugar Plum Vegan Bakery
• Tower Café
• Tapa the World
• Taylor’s Kitchen

Event Sponsors: Cook Realty, McDonald Plumbing, Joseph F. Eschleman, Black Pine Communities, Melissa Heede (Remax)

Advance until 11:59pm, Oct. 7: $40 (SCNA Members)/$45 (Non-members) Membership can be purchased or renewed during your registration process. Online ticket sales will close at 11:59pm on Oct. 7. After Oct. 7: $50 all online tickets available until 11:59pm, Oct. 7. After Oct. 7, tickets available at Sierra 2 Center office and at the door the day of the event. Tickets are also available for purchase by visiting the Sierra 2 Center office at 2791 24th Street or by calling 916-452-3005 prior to 5:00 p.m. Friday, October 9, 2015. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door prior to the event.

You can follow the Sierra 2 Center on twitter here and find them on Facebook here.

Flights By Night #3: Pork Chop with Apple Gastrique and a Duo of Pinot Noir

In this edition of Flights By Night, we bring you a classic pairing of pork and Pinot Noir. A bone-in pork chop with an apple and onion sauté and an apple gastrique. Served with roasted Brussels sprouts.

The Pinot Noirs that Andy chose are some of the most delicious Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted and they are very reasonably priced. Wine number one is Handley’s 2012 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (their self-titled “flagship wine”) and wine number two is Talbott’s 2013 Kali Hart Pinot Noir (which is my personal favorite red wine right now, because of it’s drinkability with or without food).

As for Handley, they couldn’t make a bad wine if they tried. Case in point, their Gewürztraminer ($20), but that is another pairing for another time. ;) Handley’s Anderson Valley Pinot retails for $32 via their website and Talbott’s Kali Hart Pinot Noir goes for ($21). However, you can find the wines at lower prices if you do a google search for them. ;)

The food pairing was a no-brainer because pork is always a perfect match for Pinot Noir. I quartered the Brussels sprouts and roasted them in olive oil. For the apple and onion sauté, I sliced the onions and cooked them in olive oil, seasoned them with salt, and then added 2 Tbs coconut sugar to help caramelize them. Then I added some chopped apples, and cooked the onions and apples down together until the mixture was browned and thickened.

Andy was busy with the pork chops on the grill and meanwhile I made the apple gastrique. It was such a simple preparation. I just used one part honey to two parts apple cider vinegar. I started with the honey in a small saucepan, and roasted over low heat until the honey turned darker. Then I added the apple cider vinegar and brought to a simmer, then turned down the heat slightly and reduced until the gastrique stuck to the back of a spoon (gastrique will thicken even more as it cools). Tip: You can serve the gastrique with pork, duck, or chicken. ;)

That’s it for today’s Flights By Night! Check back in a few days for another great food and wine pairing!

Farm-to-Fork Pear Bridge Dinner on the Delta September 27th at 4pm

If you didn’t get tickets to the Tower Bridge Farm-to-Fork Gala dinner, I have an alternate dinner (also on a bridge!) for you to attend at the same date and time!

On September 27 at 4 pm, a dinner coordinated by the California Pear Advisory Board will take place on the historically-named Dead Horse Island Bridge on the Delta near the community of Walnut Grove. Attendees will mingle with other guests and local California pear farmers while enjoying a scenic view in the heart of one of the largest pear-growing regions in California.

The event will include locally-raised meats, Delta-grown crops such as corn, tomatoes, endive, and, of course pears. The dinner will be catered by Giusti’s Place, a great local restaurant located next to the bridge. An appetizer and cocktail from the Farm-to-Fork Pear Recipe Contest that was held in August will be featured: Grilled Pear Bruschetta from Taste Restaurant and Jay Yoon with Dawson’s Steakhouse at the Hyatt will be serving his House Pressed Bosc Pear Martini (shown below). Delta area wines and local beers will also be served.


Each person will be allowed to reserve no more than four tickets at a price of $125 each. To reserve tickets, please send an e-mail to the California Pear Advisory Board at Please note the event is for people over the age of 21.

The California Pear Advisory Board is a non-profit organization made up of farmers who grow pears in California. The cost of Pear Bridge Dinner tickets is meant to cover expenses only. Any money remaining after costs are covered will be donated to a local charity.

If you’d like to try some special pear dishes at local restaurants you can CLICK HERE to find out what’s being served and where.

You can find the California Pear Advisory board on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, on Instagram here and on Pinterest here. See you on the bridge on September 27th!

Flights By Night #2: A Sangiovese & Cabernet Pairing

Happy California Wine Month!

Today’s “Flights by Night” features a Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon matched up with my Spicy and Sweet Tomato, Beef and Mushroom Sauce over Roasted Spaghetti Squash.

A traditional pairing with any spicy red sauce would be a sangiovese, and we chose one by Luna Vineyards. Most sangiovese have an acidic body accented with bright, red fruit flavors, very similar to the flavor notes of a tomato (that of course would be the main ingredient in a red sauce). ;) The acid in the wine fends off the heat of the red pepper flakes in the sauce.

Speaking of the sauce… Sometimes when preparing a meal during a busy work week, one has to take some shortcuts. For instance, I used a jar of organic 365 Everyday Value Pasta Sauce from Whole Foods as a base for my sauce and added:
1 sauteéd onion
1 1/2 cups mushrooms
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbs dried basil (Litehouse Foods has a freeze dried basil I absolutely love!)
1 pound grassfed ground beef
Then, I wilted 1 cup fresh basil into the sauce right before serving.

The spaghetti squash was the easy part. I preheat my oven to 400°F, then I poke holes in the squash before microwaving for about 4 minutes (so that I can cut it more easily). I cut the squash open and remove the seeds, then put the squash on a parchment lined baking sheet. I also season the squash with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Then I bake the squash until it gets all roasty and browned on the edges. :)

You can also cook your squash in a crockpot—You don’t de-seed it until after cooking. Just poke holes in the squash, pour 2 cups of water in the crockpot, place the squash in the pot and let it cook on the low setting while you’re at work all day. If you make your sauce ahead of time, you’ll have dinner in less than 5 minutes! :)

The other wine we paired with dinner was a bottle of Nadia Cabernet Sauvignon. This makes sense because of the richness of the beef in the sauce. Also, most of our 2012 Cabernets are just getting old enough to enjoy now in late 2015, because they have aged for 3 years. Their tannins have softened and the fruit is lush. Besides, most wine produced domestically is made to drink sooner than later, so don’t wait too long to open that bottle you’ve been aging. Nothing is worse than opening a bottle that is over the hill (besides opening a bottle that is corked)! Cheers!

Pork and pinot on the next Flights By Night? Stay tuned… :)


Flights By Night #1

Hello food and wine lovers! Today is the start of a new series called “Flights by Night”. Each post is intended to be a short and sweet glimpse of some of the Paleo/Primal meals and wine pairings that Andy and I enjoy when we cook at home. Perfect to give you ideas for dinner and short enough to give a quick read.

First up was Tuesday night’s dinner: Beef sliders with blue cheese and mushrooms, on tomato and red onion stacks, and a side of Brussels sprouts.
We paired the burgers with Bella Winery Two Patch Zinfandel and Rombauer Merlot.

The Zinfandel was an obvious pairing with the burgers, but the Rombauer was a special choice for a Tuesday night. Andy says, “it’s (the Rombauer Merlot) a soft, round wine with a nice touch of oak and cocoa flavors. Very long finish.” I thought the fruit in the Merlot was a great match for the mushroom topping on the burgers.

Thanks so much to Andy for having dinner ready for me so many times when I get home, as well as meticulously choosing the wines we will share with the meal. :)

What will he come up with next? Stay tuned for the next Flights by Night. :)

Nevada City Uncorked, a Historical Food and Wine Walk, is August 29th, 1-4pm

chocolate and glass
Can you walk and drink wine and the same time? ;)

Next weekend, get uncorked in downtown Nevada City on August 29th! And thanks to my friend Rod Byers (wine educator and the event’s organizer) I have a press release to pass all the details along to you! -cg

Nevada City Uncorked is a unique wine and food tasting event, taking place on August 29 in downtown Nevada City. The town’s Victorian charm and historical architecture is the perfect backdrop to showcase Uncorked, a walk-about-town style format that includes 21 different venues throughout the downtown area.

Each location, whether it is a retail shop, restaurant, B&B, winery tasting room, or historic spot, includes wine or beer tasting, and food sampling.

Nevada City Uncorked features 18 members of the Sierra Vintners Association, and two local breweries, Ol’ Republic and Three Forks. All of the wineries will be offering samples of their favorite wines as well as showcasing their newest release in celebration of the upcoming 2015 harvest.

This year’s event also encourages a connection between the local farmers and participating restaurants and caterers. Whether it is wood-fired pizza produced with locally sourced toppings, slow-roasted locally raised pork, artichoke pesto quiche with locally grown basil, house-made ricotta topped with a tomato-pasilla chili jam, or grapes from vineyards dotting the local landscape, Uncorked is a celebration of the agricultural bounty of the northern Sierra Foothills.

Uncorked offers the opportunity to stroll through time in historic Nevada City. The National Hotel, California’s oldest continually operating hotel, was the base for the creation of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company in 1898. The National Hotel’s bar and upstairs hotel lobby remain must-see windows into Nevada City’s past. The view from their second-story balcony, an Uncorked venue, endures as one of the best in town.

In one of history’s more tidy circles, Emma Nevada, considered one of the finest sopranos of the late 19th century, lived in the Emma Nevada House, sang her first solo concert in the Powell House, and later performed in the Nevada Theatre. All three historic buildings are venues this year during Uncorked.

Check-in for Uncorked will be at the lower level of the Nevada City Veteran’s Building at 415 N. Pine Street where people will pick up their wine glass, event map, and food tasting tickets.

There is also the opportunity to purchase wine through the Uncorked Wine Store, open that afternoon only, featuring many of the wines poured around town that day.

Nevada City Uncorked is collaboration between the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Vintners Association. Tickets are $35 in advance, $45 on the day of the event, and $30 for Wine Club Members of participating wineries (contact your winery directly). Each ticket includes a wine glass, unlimited wine/beer tasting, and five food tickets.

Click on for information or call 530.265-2692 to purchase tickets directly. To purchase tickets online click on

 Nevada City Uncorked
Where: 21 venues throughout downtown Nevada City.
Check in at the Vet’s Building, Lower Level, 415 North Pine Street, Nevada City
When: Saturday, August 29, 1-4 pm
Cost: $35 in advance. $45 on the day of and $30 for Wine Club Members of participating wineries
Information & Tickets: Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, (530) 265-2692
Online Tickets:

P.S: For a look at last year’s event, you can refer to my experience at Nevada City Uncorked here!


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