Category Archives: Cooking Michelin and Mom

Common Threads, World Festival LA

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Throughout my career I have been very fortunate to work with many amazing charities. Most of my participation has been showing up at a scheduled time and cooking a specific dish for a specific amount of guests, occasionally donating myself to be auctioned off to cook a dinner.

In May of 2009 I was doing a photo shoot in Chicago for a Magazine that was featuring Canadian Chefs that worked outside of Canada. I was just finishing up when a lady walking her dog approached me and asked if I was a new chef in town. She introduced herself as Linda Novick, Executive Director of Common Threads and began to tell me about the mission of this charity. The minute she told me this was a chef driven charity that works with children to teach them how to cook, eat and shop healthier I knew I wanted to get involved.

My very first Common Threads experience was attending a lunch served by the Little Threads. What made this such a special lunch was the kids were cooking for their parents and to see how proud each parent was of their child was life changing. The typical Common Threads child comes from broken and low income homes and to listen to their stories on how learning how to cook has changed their lives was incredible. When speaking to a few of the parents at the lunch there was a common message, each parent spoke about how their child’s confidence had grown and the friendships that were made between the classmates.

What made Common Threads special to me was seeing how involved Chefs were in teaching classes and cooking at the fundraisers. These chefs were some of the most talented and successful chefs in the country and had restaurants that were full night after night but they still found time to work with the children.

Fast forward a couple of years and living back in Southern California, I learned very quickly that there is much more to creating a successful fundraising event than just showing up and cooking food for a couple of hours and then heading home. We started planning the very 1st LA World Festival in March and we capped it off with the main event on November 8th. A truly amazing night of great food and friends showing that Common Threads will succeed in LA.

Not only does Common Threads bring children together to create friendships and bonds that will probably last a life time, it also brings a group of chefs together to form a bond and a friendship that is so very important to the success of our business.

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Brussels Sprouts

Probably the most underrated vegetable in the garden…..

I am not sure why but my guess is that as a child most of us had to endure boiled way to long sprouts with our turkey dinners. Well its time to block this from your memory because Brussels Sprouts are damn good and can be enjoyed much more often than with your turkey dinner. Be creative, they can hold their own with many different ingredients.

For those of you who did not know, Canadian Thanksgiving was on October 10th and yes we Canadians give thanks as well 🙂 Instead of cooking a turkey I decided to Sous Vide some duck legs along with a beautiful side of Brussels Sprouts and Madeira Jus. I actually decided to create two different sprout sides, the first is my wife Jana’s favorite (amazing for someone who hated Brussels Sprouts until she tried this dish a few years back) charred with crispy pork belly, roasted grapes tossed with shallots. The second dish is a variation of a side that we served with squab when I was working in England (back then we used almonds and no grapes) Brussels Sprout leaves, toasted hazelnuts and roasted grapes. The bitterness of the sprouts and the intense sweetness of the grapes with the beautiful crunch of the hazelnuts works so well with the crispy skin and just so ever saltiness of the Sous Vide duck leg.

Jana was not to excited about eating what she calls boil (sous vide) in the bag duck leg but I convinced her to give it a try with the sprouts and she was a believer after the first bite. Just remember there is no water necessary for these two recipes so leave the boiled to death Brussels Sprout memories in the past where they belong.

Amy’s Wine Picks
For Chef McLeod’s Sous Vide Duck leg, I recommend a wine that is bold enough to stand up to the fall flavors, yet subtle enough to not steal the show. Besides the rich protein, you must consider the sweet Madeira Jus, nutty hazelnuts and earthy Brussels sprouts. Depending on the style, Châteauneuf-du-Pape tends to have a residual sweetness that will accentuate the Madeira Jus and an earthy component that complements the Brussels sprouts. Pinot Noir is a classic pairing with Duck and will enhance its flavors. Riesling, well…it simply goes with everything. An off-dry to sweet selection will pair beautifully with the Madeira Jus. Its acidity will cleanse the palate, preparing for the next delightful bite. And if you select an older vintage, it develops a nutty quality that will be perfect with the hazelnuts. Overall, I think all three wines would complement Chef McLeod’s dish.

Top pick: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Playing it safe: Pinot Noir

Off the beaten track: Riesling

Amy Payne

Charred Brussels Sprouts

1lb Brussel Sprouts
2 Strips Bacon or 3 oz Pork Belly
1 Shallot
15pc Red Grapes
Safflower Oil

Trim the stem of the sprouts, cut in 1/2 and remove and excess leaves
Cut the bacon in batons
Finely dice the shallots
Roast the Grapes in a 400F oven for about 20 to 25 mins
Cook bacon batons in just a drop of oil
Once bacon is cooked remove from pan
Add the sprouts to Bacon Fat and add a splash of oil and cook on high heat
Season with salt and pepper
It is key to really char the sprouts, the darker the better (just don’t burn)
This should take about 5 to 7 mins
Strain any excess fat/oil from pan add shallots and toss quickly
Add bacon and grapes

Brussels Sprout Leaves, Hazelnuts, Roasted Grapes

1/2 lb Brussels Sprouts
15 Grapes
1/4 cup Toasted Hazelnuts
1 Shallot Finely Diced
1 tbsp Safflower Oil

Cut off the stem on the sprouts and remove the leaves one by one
Roast the Grapes in a 400F oven for about 20 to 25 mins
Crush the hazelnuts but not to small
Place a saute pan on medium to high heat and add oil
Quickly add the leaves and toss for about 60 to 90 seconds you want to just wilt the leaves
Season with salt and pepper
Add the shallots and remove from heat
Toss in the grapes and last second add the nuts

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Green & Black’s Organic

About a month ago Karlin and I received an email from a lady named Barbara Maldonado letting us know she had stumbled across our blog and really enjoyed the pictures and recipes. Barbara was organizing a tweet up in LA on behalf of Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate and asked if we wanted to attend the event along with other local bloggers, media & foodies. Unfortunately the timing just did not work for us and we were unable to attend, but a friendship was born.

Fast forward a few weeks and Karlin receives an email from Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate saying that they are going to send us some samples so we can create a recipe for Michelin and a Mom. Needles to say we were both very flattered and excited to create a couple of recipes. 4 days later I arrived home to find 2 bars of 70% Dark Chocolate and 2 bars 60% Dark Chocolate with Whole Cherries.

I had a hard time deciding on just one dessert so I decided to create 2 recipes (those of you that know me, know how much I love chocolate). I have been making these 2 desserts for a very long time and I knew that they would be just perfect for this post. The first recipe is for a Chocolate Pate a recipe I have carried with me since I was an apprentice. Second recipe is for a Chocolate Tart a recipe that I loved from my time working in England, with one exception I replaced the honey with Burton’s Maplewood Farms Rum infused maple syrup.

A very big thank you to Green & Black’s Organic Chocolates

Hope you enjoy…

Chocolate Pate

200g 60% Dark Chocolate with whole cherries
200g 60% Dark Chocolate with hazelnuts and currants
100g 70% Dark Chocolate
400 ml Heavy Cream
5 Egg Yolks
50g Sugar

Break chocolate into small pieces and melt
Heat cream until just before it boils
Add sugar and yolks together and heat over a water bath until pail yellow (be careful not to scramble)
Add cream to yolks slowly
Add cream/yolk mixture to melted chocolate
Set plastic wrap into mold leaving enough plastic to hang over sides
Pour mixture into mold and place in refrigerator and let set for at least 6 hours.
The mixture will be set up still feel slightly soft.

Chocolate Tart

Pastry Shell
250g Flour
150g Almond Flour
2 Tbsp Sugar
200g Butter cut into cubes & very cold
90 ml Very cold water

In a food processor add dry ingredients and butter
Pulse for about 20 seconds until small balls form
Place mixture into a very cold bowl
Add 1/2 water and mix quickly
Add remaining water
Quickly knead the dough for about 5 – 6 turns
Cover and place in refrigerator
Once cool roll out to desired thickness lay in tart shell and blind bake at 375F for about 10 minutes and then uncover and bake for another 5-7 minutes.
Let Cool

Chocolate Mixture
500ml Heavy Cream
300g 70% Dark Chocolate
100ml Burton Maplewood Farm’s Rum infused maple syrup (replace with honey if you do not have)
2 Eggs

Melt chocolate with syrup/honey
Heat cream until just before it boils
Add cream to chocolate
Whisk eggs and slowly add mixture little at a time
Pour mixture into pre-baked tart shell and cook at 200F for about 18-20 minutes
Remove and let cool
Serve at room temperature with your favorite garnish

Amy’s Wine Picks

An obvious pairing for Chef McLeod’s Green & Black’s organic chocolate tart would be a ruby port. Because the dark chocolate is so decadent, contrasting flavors are optimal. The best pairing I have ever had with chocolate was chili mead by Makana Meadery. The meadery, located in Grahamstown on the Eastern Cape of South Africa, was founded in 2000 to make iQhilika, a traditional honey-based beverage. Mead is made my fermenting honey sugars into alcohol until it reaches 12 percent. It is made from habanero chilies and has a strong spiced palate that adds a new dimension to Chef McLeod’s dark chocolate tart.

Amy Payne

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Madeleines & Strawberry Preserve

Of course there are many theories to where these delicious little sponge cakes get their name, but to be honest WHO REALLY CARES :-). All we really care about is how incredibly delicious they are.
I mentioned to my Wife that I wanted to make some Madeleines for a blog post and the smile that came across her face was heart warming. The problem with this conversation was the timing, we just happened to be walking by a tea shop called Teavana, yes a perfect match for freshly baked Madeleines. Well 30 minutes later we walked out of the store dropping $120 on tea and appropriate tea making paraphernalia. Later that night it was proven to be well worth the shopping spree as we sipped on a cup of tea named Spice of Life and devoured 10 perfectly cooked Madeleines right out of the oven. (We would have finished them all if I did not have to take pictures for the post.) We truly could have been sitting in a small shop somewhere in Paris, the recipe was just how I remembered it from my days working in Europe, it had been some time since I made this recipe but now that I have tasted them again I will be making them often (plus we have a lot of tea to drink :-))
If you have made Madeleines in the past you probably notice a few difference in this recipe compared to the one you used, for example whole eggs and baking powder. I use egg whites and no baking powder, but to me there is one step in my recipe that truly makes the difference and that is browning the butter or Beurre noisette translation Hazelnut butter. This adds such a unique nutty flavor to the recipe.

There is nothing better than a warm batch of Madeleines for breakfast served with homemade Strawberry Preserve, now this is a way to impress your friends when you have them over for Brunch.

Hope you Enjoy….Jason

Amy’s Wine Picks

Top Pick: I recently poured the Cave Spring Riesling “Indian Summer SLH” Ice Wine for an event. It immediately came to mind as the perfect complement to chef McLeod’s warm Madeleine recipe. It is from the Lincoln Lakeshore region of the Niagara Peninsula along the south shore of Lake Ontario.
Ice wine was discovered by accident in Germany in 1974 by farmers trying to save their harvest after a sudden frost. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that Ontario recognized its cold winters as an ideal climate for ice wine production. The Pennachetti family was among the pioneers, planting Riesling and Chardonnay vines on the Niagara Peninsula in 1978.
It has aromas of honeysuckle, dried apricots, canned pineapples and overripe peaches. At 12 percent alcohol, the ice wine retains a pleasant acidity that makes it ideal for pairing with food. When it is served chilled (45 degrees Fahrenheit), it accents the warm Madeleine perfectly!
Another fabulous and affordable ice wine producer is Jackson-Triggs.

Amy Payne

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Not Your Every Day Gnocchi

Most individuals think of Gnocchi as an Italian potato dumpling, and yes this is the more popular of the dumplings but most countries have their own recipes for dumplings. The Parisienne Gnocchi is a French recipe typically served with a BĂ©chamel or Mornay Sauce and baked. As you can imagine dumplings baked with cheese sauce is out of this world, but I went a little different direction and served the gnocchi with a Bolognese sauce (Italian meat sauce) as with the gnocchi Bolognese has many different forms. The more traditional Bolognese consists of beef, pancetta, onions, tomato, broth, white wine, milk or cream. I stayed some what true to the traditional recipe but added a few twists. The most exciting part of learning this dumpling recipe is that it uses the same base as cream puffs and eclairs. Hope you enjoy….Jason

Amy’s Wine Picks
Top Pick: Brunello di Montalcino. One of my favorite descriptors for Sangiovese is stewed tomatoes (which I get made fun of for frequently), which complement the crushed tomatoes in Chef Mcleod’s Parisienne Gnocchi. Other typical aromas include sour red cherry, red licorice or Twizzlers (yes, another favorite descriptor), fennel bulb, stewed black tea and twigs. Unfortunately, Brunello usually costs a pretty penny, but is well worth the investment. Some of my favorite producers are Valdicava, Mastrojanni and Banfi.
Playing it safe: California Pinot Noir. Typical aromas include red fruit, such as cherries, strawberries and cranberries, violets, tomato leaf, bacon fat and black tea. I recommend Belle Glos “Meiomi” and Calera for everyday wines, Failla and Walter Hansel for a treat, and Kosta Brown (if you can find it) for a splurge. I could honestly recommend dozens more, but these should get you started.
Off the beaten track: Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Mount Etna, Sicily. The flavors are basically a cross between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. How could you go wrong? Located on Sicily’s Mount Etna, it is a recently re-discovered region that is believed to be the highest vineyards in Italy and Europe. The late-ripening indigenous Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio yield wines of notable aromatic complexity. It is aged in 25 percent new French oak and in a classic Burgundian style.

Amy Payne

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Baby Back Ribs

Baby Back Ribs are one of my summer favorites. I love to eat them with a simple green salad and beautiful sweet corn on the cob. One thing I will tell you is that there are countless thoughts, beliefs & recipes on how to prepare ribs. Depending on where you come from also has a large impact on how you might prepare ribs. After doing a little research I did find a tip that I thought was very interesting and I had not taken this into consideration in the past, but it makes perfect sense. Do not boil the ribs, I was guilty of this in the past, instead slow roast or braise them. When boiling meat and bones you are essentially extracting flavor into the water (think making stock) and you run the risk of drying the meat out if boiled to long.
The recipe I created is not your typical BBQ Ribs, I decided to go with more Asian inspired flavors. One of the ingredients I used was Black Garlic and is perfect for this recipe as it is adds a unique richness with out the pungent fresh garlic acid bite. Mythology also says that it grants immortality so why not give it a try :-). Hope You Enjoy…Jason

Amy’s Wine Picks

Top pick: Riesling from Germany, preferably a dry style. Riesling is one of the best values in the world, is nearly every sommelier’s desert-island wine and has the most diverse range in styles for a noble grape. The residual sweetness will contrast the salty soy flavors, while complementing the orange, honey and ginger. Some of my favorite producers are St. Urbans-Hof, Joh. Jos. Prüm and Blees-Ferber.

Playing it safe: California or Washington Syrah. Syrah has aromas of red and black fruit, freshly crashed pepper, smoked meat, leather and Picholine olives. The tannins will cut through the proteins and it will add another dimension to the already flavorful dish. Some of my favorite California producers are Failla, Ojai and Copain. My favorite producers from Washington are Efeste, Charles Smith and Long Shadows.

Off the beaten track: Plavic Mali from Croatia. Plavac Mali was originally thought to be an ancestor of Zinfandel. In 1998 it was discovered that it’s actually the offspring of Zinfandel and Dobričić, a grape from the island of Solta. The DNA fingerprinting was conducted by Dr. Carole Meredith at UC Davis with the urging of Mike Grgich and researchers from the University of Zagreb. Plavo means blue in Croatian and mali means small. It is a full bodied, peppery and fruit dominant red wine. The flavors of jammed fruits and spice will complement chef McLeod’s glaze. My favorite producers are Zlatan, Bura Dinga, Korta Katarina and Saints Hills.

Amy Payne

Send us your favorite rib recipes to we would love to hear about them. Stay tuned for a very special gnocchi recipe and cooking with Kale.

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Tarte Flambée

Just to be clear this is not actually a pizza ;-), but a very classic dish from Alsace, France. I have had guest very upset saying I miss lead them with the name, asking why I just don’t call it a pizza, I have also had a couple of guests shocked that it was not a dessert when delivered to their table. (there is a sweet variant with crème fraĂ®che, sliced apples, sugar and cinnamon) Classic recipe calls for fromage blanc, lardons, thinly sliced onions and was square in shape not round. The dish was actually created to test the temperature of the wood fire ovens used for baking bread. I could eat this dish for breakfast,(Crack an egg on this dish about 3 minutes before finished cooking and you have Brunch) lunch, dinner, midnight snack.
To me this dish is a great example of how something so simple can be so amazing, I have adapted the recipe a little but staying in line with the classic flavors. I started with a simple pizza dough recipe, covered in crème fraiche, bacon, red onion and topped it all off with a cheese from Carr Valley in Wisconsin called Mellage You want to find a cheese with some sharpness, to compliment the richness of this dish, something along the lines of a gruyère would give you a great starting point when speaking with your cheesemongor.
I also decided to serve an Arugula salad, one of my favorite lettuces, and it goes extremely well with a rich dish like the Tarte flambĂ©e. When ever creating a dish always remember to think about layers of flavor and textures and this will really help in putting together a balanced dish. The salad consisted of apricots, fennel, hazelnuts and a spanish sheep’s milk cheese Cana de Oveja. To be honest if I were to serve this salad with the Tarte again I would not add cheese as it ended up being to much cheese.
Hope you enjoy.

Amy’s Picks
Top pick: Champagne or sparkling wine. It is a match made in heaven for the same reason as pizza and beer. The bubbles cleanse the palate of any residual grease from the bacon and cheese.
Every day: Barth Sekt, Rheingau, Germany
Premium: Ayala, Brut Majeur, Champagne, France
Splurge: Vilmart & Cie, Grand Cellier, Premier Cru Brut, Champagne, France

Playing it safe: Alsace Riesling. Tarte flambé can be salty because of the bacon. Riesling contrasts and balances the dish with its residual sweetness. Because of its higher acidity, it pairs with (almost) everything. Many people think that all Riesling is uber sweet, but there are plenty of dry styles on the market. Alsace Rieslings tend to be dry because of the rain shadow effect. Try to look for any of the 51 Grand Cru vineyards.
Recommended producers (pricing will vary depending on the vineyard that you select): F. E. Trimbach, Hugel and Marcel Deiss
Off the beaten track: Rosé. Try a dry, crisp and aromatic style. It will complement the dish, not contrast. So this is for people who love salt and want it to be accentuated in the dish.
Every day: Korta Katarina, Plavac Mali, Zinfandel, Croatia
Premium: Château d’Esclans, Whispering Angel, Provence, France
Splurge: Chateau Vannieres, La Cadiere d’Azur, Bandol, Var, Cote d’Azur, France
Amy Payne

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Canada Day and 4th of July

I always look back on my life and smile as I have had such a great journey that some how just keeps getting better. Growing up in Canada in a small town I never really dreamed of traveling the world, it just seemed to happen, and boy what a journey it has been. The first few days of July are always exciting for me because I live in the US and I am Canadian, so that translates to celebrating both National holidays, and why not? I have found no real reason not to 🙂
This year was no different, well OK a little, I actually had a BBQ in my own back yard for the first time since I can remember and what a treat it was. To top the night off we were able to watch the fireworks from our front steps, pretty cool.
I decided to create a some what traditional summer BBQ meal; burgers, potato salad & corn on the cob. The corn was simple, cooked and rolled in lots of butter topped with a pinch of sea salt. For the potato salad I went with a German style salad made with a vinaigrette, and for the all mighty burger I went with a recipe similar to what I first tried in 1989 while I was in Coffs Harbour, Australia. Yes a burger with fried egg & beet root. (I left out the pineapple sorry my Aussie friends) I will never forget that day, 19 years old traveling Australia by myself and craving a burger. I found myself a small shop, ordered a burger with the works and when it arrived, man was I surprised. I was used to a burger with cheese at this point in my life. I realized at that moment that the world was a big place and something as simple as a burger could have so many different interpretations.
Hope you enjoy.

Amy’s Suggestions
Alsatian Riesling and Zinfandel. The zin would bring out the charred flavors of the burger. Riesling simply goes with everything and the acidity helps cleanse the palate in between bites. If you want to find out more why it is a great summer wine (and more), read my article in RMGT Magazine in this month’s edition.

I love Moscow Mules and think they would go splendidly as well. Burgers and beer are a match made in heaven, so you can’t go wrong with that either.

Moscow Mule
Ginger Beer
Lime Juice
Simple Syrup

Mix all together and enjoy.

Cheers, Amy

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Lamb, Summer Squash

From my experiences most individuals love lamb or hate lamb, there are very few that are on the fence. Most individuals find the flavor to strong or gamey. There are a couple of factors that lead to strong flavored meat, one is age and the other is what the animal has been fed. Grain fed creates a much fattier lamb and this will cause a much stronger flavor, grass fed creates a much leaner lamb and not as strong. The most popular time of year for lamb is spring (with the bulk of availability between May and June) when you can get a young animal, that is grass fed and delicious. But don’t be fooled the demand is so high that you are probably buying an older animal that was grain fed. My advice to everyone is to have a great butcher that you can trust, there is no better friend than a trusted butcher.
I wanted to use summer squash with my lamb dish, (pretty classic accompniament for lamb think of ratatouille) and I decided not to cook the squash but to marinate and serve at room temperature, not only did I use the vegetable but I decided to use the blossom, yes delicious especially stuffed with ricotta dipped in tempura batter and fried amazing flavor and texture.
So for all the Lamb haters I challenge you to find a trusted butcher and ask them a few questions before purchasing your lamb. How old was the animal, and was it grass or grain fed. If you find a nice young grass fed lamb go for it and I bet you will change your mind on the flavor of lamb.
The best lamb dish I ever had was in Provence at Edouard Loubet’s 2 michelin star restaurant. Simple Lamb Rack and Lamb Jus with a hint of thyme.

Amy’s Wine Picks

Top pick: Australian Shiraz. For me, Syrah and lamb is a classic pairing that will never get old. Despite what Yellow Tail did for Australia’s image for quality wine internationally, they make some great juice. The Barossa Valley is home to some of the oldest pre-phylloxera Syrah vines in the world. (The root louse that attacked vineyards in the late 19th century). Why it works? The aromas of black pepper adds a new element to the dish and the tannins break down the protein. Some of my favorite producers are Henry’s Drive, d’Arenberg, Elderton and Mollydooker.

Playing it safe: Argentinian Malbec. Malbec took Merlot’s place in the market after Sideways ruined its reputation. Think about it – purple hue, lush, velvety palate, and aromas of boysenberry and dark chocolate. Many wine producers from around the world are investing in the Mendoza region – Paul Hobbs and Mouton Rothschild to name a few. It is a crowd pleaser and usually a steal for the price. Some of my favorite producers are Añoro, Terrazas de los Andes and Luca.

Off the beaten track: Rosé Champagne. Trust me on this one. Instead of explaining myself, I will use my favorite wine quote to demonstrate.

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.
When I have company I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and I drink it when I am.
Otherwise I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.”
~Lily Bollinger

Some of my favorite producers that won’t break the bank are Leclerc Briant, Egly-Ouriet, Duval Leroy and Jacquesson. But the way to my heart is through La Grande Dame, by Veuve Clicquot.
Amy Payne

My Wife’s Birthday Dinner

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 “CoulĂ©e 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 BrĂĽndlmayer
Splurge: Emmerich Knoll


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