The last 3 years for Jana’s birthdays I have come up with complete surprises. First was a hot air balloon ride over Del Mar, second was an Andrea Bocelli concert (her favorite) and a weekend at the American Club Resort in Kohler Wisconsin and last year was a trip to Miami and a weekend at the beautiful Casa Tua Hotel. This year I decided to do something a little different, I asked Jana to pick what she wanted to do for her birthday and the first words out of her mouth were, we can do anything as long as you make me a hand made pasta dish for dinner, followed quickly by I want to go on a shopping spree I need a few new outfits 🙂
The weekend started with a 4.5 hour drive to LA and then dinner at Red Medicine with a good friend Kiki Luthringshausen and her daughter Lo (Lauren). Saturday we had an amazing brunch at Gjelina with George and Melly. Sunday morning we were up early enjoyed some coffee and then we strolled on up to the La Jolla farmers market to see what we could find for the pasta dish. The market was full of beautiful product and I decided that summer squashes were going to be the main focus of the pasta. After picking up a few other key ingredients we were off to Venissimo Cheese shop to pick up some ricotta cheese from Gioia Cheese Co.
We could not have asked for a more beautiful day, sun was shining, I was rolling pasta and Jana was reading rag mags and taking power naps in the backyard. We also enjoyed a bottle of Bubbles and a nice salad of local greens with shaved radishes tossed in a gentle lemon, olive oil dressing.
Top pick: A dry style Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. Chenin Blanc has higher acidity, bright citrus and is known for its aromas of marzipan, an almond-based candy (And it happens to be one of my personal favorite wine descriptions). It complements the summer flavors in the dish, while contrasting the creamy ricotta.
Bang for your buck: Philippe Foreau Vouvray Sec
Splurge: Nicolas Joly “Coulée de Serrant” Savennières
Playing it safe: Pinot Grigio from Italy. Pinot Grigio is a crowd-pleaser with tutti-fruity aromas. It goes down easily, but falls off at the finish. In sommelier terminology, this is called a porch pounder. What grows together, drinks together. And who does pasta better than Italy? I recommend a Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy, such as Jermann from Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.
Off the beaten track: Grüner Veltliner from Austria. Grüner Veltliner is the Achilles’ heel of most sommelier’s when blind tasting because it is a chameleon offering many different styles. It has one aroma that sets it apart from the crowd and makes it ideal for Chef McLeod’s dish: radish. Besides its vegetal undertones, it also is known for kaffir lime and white pepper.
Bang for your buck: either Nigl or Bründlmayer
Splurge: Emmerich Knoll