Rhône Blend White Wines are a Dream to Pair with Foods

Fried Goat Cheese, Butter Lettuce Cups, Green Apple, Almonds, Sweet Meyer Lemon Cream

Fried Goat Cheese
Butter Lettuce, Green Apple, Almond, Borage
Sweet Meyer Lemon Cream with Cardamom

paired with

Le Cigar Blanc 2012
Bonny Doon Vineyard
Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, California


Grocery Outlet’s
Spring Wine Sale

Rhône Blend white wines are a dream to pair with foods. Who can resist the tempting flavors of peaches, apricots, ripe pears, sweet spices and honey, or the seductive aromas of honeysuckle and tropical fruits? White wines from France’s Rhône tend to have these characteristics. Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, and to a lesser extent Picpoul Blanc – are the dominant varietals in the region. Many of the wines tend toward a creaminess that is rich but not heavy, with a refreshing acidity, and a pleasing minerality and nuttiness.

California Winemaker Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Vineyards has been a tireless champion of the grapes of the Rhône for decades. It is difficult to resist his stylish wines as well as his quirky sense of humor. This wine, Le Cigare Blanc (The White Cigar) is named after his flagship, Le Cigar Volant (The Flying Cigar), so-called in honor of the cigar-shaped flying saucer banned by decree of the village council of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It’s a true story,  in 1954 the mayor and the council voted to ban alien craft from the airspace of their hamlet in order to protect their precious crops.

The 2012 vintage of Le Cigar Blanc is made of 48% Grenache Blanc, 44% Roussanne, and 8% Picpoul Blanc. The Grenache Blanc adds notes of green apple and lemon-lime citrus. The Roussanne brings honeyed notes with a rich mouthfeel and nutty aromas. These characteristics are highlighted and elevated by this salad’s rich goat cheese, sweet/tart meyer lemon cream with a hint of warm cardamom spice, allumettes of green apple, and lightly toasted almonds. Soft butter lettuce, creamy cheese with a toasty panko breadcrumb crust, and crisp Granny Smiths add contrasting textures.

This goat cheese salad and Rhône blend make a quite dreamy pair.

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Lemon Ricotta Pasta Salad with Figs and Mint

Lemon Ricotta Pasta Salad with Figs and Mint
Lemon Ricotta Pasta Salad
Figs, Mint, Macadamia Nuts

Light, lemony, and refreshing. Perfect for a picnic side dish or a lunch on the veranda served with a chilled glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Nuts and fruit, lemon and mint – pair with crema di ricotta to make a pasta salad just meant to be enjoyed on a warm day in brilliant sunshine.

Fresh figs have two seasons in California – the first two weeks in June, then the second season runs August through October. If fresh figs are available, by all means try them in this salad – but if not, dried figs work just as well.

Lemon Ricotta Pasta Salad Recipe

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Lemon Risotto Balls with Edible Flower Confetti

meyer lemon arancini, lemon rice balls, ciao fiore appetizer

Meyer Lemon Risotto Balls with Parmesan and Mascarpone
Edible Flower Confetti

Crispy on the outside – warm, creamy, cheesy, and lemony on the inside – these little risotto balls (arancini in Italian) are simply irresistible. And if the texture and flavor aren’t enough to make you swoon, I’m dressing them up with pretty flower petal confetti and lacy Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve them with your favorite Italian white wine and enjoy happy hour!

Meyer Lemon Risotto Recipe

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Pasta with Peas, Bacon, Mint, and Ricotta

Pasta with Peas, Bacon, Mint, and Ricotta

Pasta with Peas, Bacon, Mint, and Ricotta

It’s a sprightly mash-up of two traditional Italian pasta dishes: Paglia e Fieno and Pasta e Fagioli. Paglia e fieno, translates to “straw and hay” named for its two color fettuccine made from both egg and spinach. The yellow and green pastas are typically paired with prosciutto and peas and Parmesan. Pasta e fagioli is a brothy dish combining pasta and beans.

Here, conchigliette (small pasta shells) are paired with peas and bacon in a flavorful chicken and vermouth-based broth, brightened with fresh mint. Scoops of whole milk ricotta are stirred into the broth taking the place of the traditional rich Parmesan cream sauce. A sprightly mash-up indeed.

Pasta with Peas, Bacon, Mint, and Ricotta Recipe

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Teacher Appreciation Luncheon ~ Farmers Market Theme

Teacher Appreciation Luncheon ~ Farmers Market Theme

Teacher Appreciation Luncheon ~ Farmers Market Theme

Well, they did it again. The amazing parents of the students at Rolling Hills Country Day School hosted yet another over-the-top Teacher & Staff Appreciation Luncheon. This year’s theme was extra charming ~ a Farmers Market! Their dedication, creativity, and attention to detail blew all of us away.

A few weeks before the event, we received a handmade invitation in our mailboxes, inviting us to “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” at the RHCDS Farmers Market. And to “Come Meet Your Local Farmers.” The invitation cleverly proclaimed “Crafting Kids Since (our inception) 1961.”


Welcome to the Farm House

On Teacher Appreciation Day, we arrived to find the school auditorium completely transformed into a colorful organic-dining farmstead. Draped over the back of each chair was the gift of a reusable cloth shopping bag, printed with an artsy RHCDS Farmers Market label. In the bag, a fresh baked baguette with plenty of extra room to shop the market after lunch and fill it with a bounty of local fresh fruits and vegetables.

Menus were printed on paper bags so that after dining, we could take the bag to visit the various market stands and fill it up with sweet treats and goodies. Lastly, we would stop at the fresh flower stand “Oops-a-Daisy” to hand-pick our favorite blooms and have the talented moms arrange them into beautiful bouquets to take home.

The enchanting table decor included rustic wooden centerpieces overflowing with vibrant vegetables, soft white linen tablecloths and blue striped tea-towel napkins, silverware tied with twine, milk-bottle beverage containers with jaunty red striped straws. Wooden pallets with woven and wire baskets of fruits and vegetables adorned the walls. We felt pampered…and comfortable.

The parents sported snappy t-shirts with Country Day logos branded for each particular farm stand: Farmhouse Crepes, Coffee Stand, Original Kettlecorn, Bakery, Pick UR Own, and Flower Stand. These thoughtful parents consciously considered the dietary restrictions of some of the teachers – offering many vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free menu choices.

Following the fabulously fresh veggie-centric luncheon, we stopped at the coffee stand for a custom-brewed cup of java and some chocolate covered espresso beans for a boost, then “shopped” the Farmers Market – giddy with delight to take home potatoes, onions, carrots, home-grown citrus fruits, apples, pears. Even the centerpieces were included in the “shopping” experience – eggplants, artichokes, bell peppers and more. Our little paper bag menus were full of cookies and pies and peanuts and popcorn.

Let’s ride our bikes over to RHCDS and I’ll show you their re-creation of a Farmers Market…inside a school auditorium!

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