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Are you addicted to ramen? Is it your comfort food? Self-taught cook turned restaurateur Sarah Gavigan is a ramen lover and has written the cookbook Ramen Otaku: Mastering Ramen at Home. Demystifying the process of how to make ramen, anyone can learn to make good tasting ramen at home! And that is why Ramen Otaku: Mastering Ramen at Home is the Please The Palate pick of the week.

Los Angeles is a city filled with ramen shops. Living on the west side, I am in walking distance of Sawtelle Blvd which is peppered with ramen shops. Chef Sarah Gavigan used to be a regular at these shops when she lived in Los Angeles. A native of Nashville she was living in Los Angeles, working in the music industry. She became obsessed with ramen and it became her comfort food. Sarah and her husband then moved back to Nashville where she was a stay-at-home mom and the one thing she missed more than anything was ramen. There were no ramen shops in Nashville and she could not get her fix.

So, in 2011, Sarah started reading and studying about ramen. She became obsessed, or as they say in Japanese, “otaku”. Inspired by pop-up restaurants, such as Ludo Bites, she decided to do a pop-up ramen restaurant in Nashville. No one had done a pop-up restaurant in Nashville but Sarah found a spot and after three years of development, she opened her pop-up in 2014. And in 2015, she opened up a permanent ramen shop Otaku Ramen.

And now Sarah has come out with her first cookbook. A self-taught chef, she takes a home cook approach and simplifies it. She explained to me that ramen is about layering. In her book, she talks about the base flavors and once you understand the base flavors, you can add what you like.

Ramen Otaku strips the mystique from ramen and offers accessible recipes to make it at home. It is a progressive book. The book begins with Sarah’s personal story and then discusses ramen basics, the history of ramen, umami (a natural occurrence based on combining acids) and noodle tips. And then the book moves into stocks. There are a few basic stocks to learn and you can even make them in a pressure cooker! And once you understand the basic stocks, you can make infinite combinations. The book provides 60 ramen recipes.

After sitting down and slurping a bowl of Curry Shio Ramen, a chicken broth ramen with pickled shrimp and a soy egg, I left with my copy of Ramen Otaku: Mastering Ramen at Home, inspired that I could make something so tasty at home! Pick up your book today (available on Amazon) and you can as well! And that is why Ramen Otaku: Mastering Ramen at Home is the Please The Palate pick of the week.

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As Maude journeyed to a new wine region in the world for the fourth quarter of 2018, they landed in Piedmont, Italy. The most prestigious wine region in Italy, Piedmont, which means “foot of the mountains”, is between the Ligurian coast and the Alps in northwest Italy. Home to Nebbiolo and Barbera, as well as hazelnuts, cheese, chocolate and Alba white truffles, we were in for a treat.

I spent six months living in Piedmont, in the town of Vercelli, the riso (rice) capital of Italy. I was not knowledgeable about wine at the time, nor would I have called myself a foodie. But, I was introduced to the wines and many of the classic dishes and Maude’s Piedmont menu was a twist on these memorable dishes.  

As we were seated at our table, like a classic Italian restaurant, a basket of bread-sticks lay in the middle. These long, crispy bread-sticks were perfectly salty and crunchy and it was hard to stop eating them.

We ordered a white wine to start the evening. Instead of a Champagne, as we typically order, we had the La Colombera Il Montino Colli Tortonesi Timorasso, an intense full-bodied wine.

Bagna Cauda is a warm dish of garlic and anchovy that dates to the 16th century. This bagna cauda was rich and creamy and once we finished dipping the raw vegetables, we drank what was left like a soup and then licked up every last drop.

Bacalao is a classic dish found in Piedmont, as well as Spain and Portugal. The cod was mixed with parsley and garlic and covered by a translucent veil.

The treat of dining with my friends at Maude is the wines that they bring. That was no exception for this meal as we started with the Berteletti 1964 Gattinara that still had acidity and a brambly, earthy taste.

Our dinner was just getting started but no time was wasted in bringing out the white truffles. They were shaved on top of delicate little Agnolotti with Rocchetta Cheese.

There is no aperitivi or meal you will attend in Piedmont and not have vitello tonnato. Typically, the veal is thinly shaved and topped with a tuna caper sauce. Maude created a modern, and creative take on Vitello Tonnato with veal panna cotta topped with slices of raw tuna.

The aged Barolo was next poured – Agricola Giuseppe 1964 Barolo and Fratelli Anselma 1967 Barolo. Considering the age of the wines, the intensity of their color and flavor was impressive.

Tajarin is a thin, rich pasta that is a bright yellow color. Here the Tajarin was prepared with cubes of bresaola and topped with a crispy sage leaf. We wanted this dish to be triple the size and I found myself trying to eat one delicate noodle at a time in order to make the dish last longer.

One of the best parts of the Maude Piedmont menu is that there was not one, not two but three pasta dishes. Our third pasta was a large Ravioli with Braised Veal and topped with shaved black truffles.

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Until all wineries are sustainable, it is important to share the stories of those that are. My recent story for California Winery Advisor is about Long Meadow Ranch in Napa Valley. The Hall family is focused on sustainability and health. They care about their community and are doing good, offering wine, wine tasting experiences, dining experiences and more. Can you read more in the re-post of my story below.

Driving along Main Street in St. Helena, Long Meadow Ranch provides a one-stop shop. There is a coffee stand serving breakfast and lunch, a restaurant serving lunch and dinner, a tasting room, a general store, a farmer’s market, and an event space. And, there is more than the eye can see. There are vineyards, heirloom vegetables, olive trees, and highland cattle.

Long Meadow Ranch is a family-owned business focused on sustainability and health, supporting the community, doing good, and telling the truth. Ted and Laddie Hall bought their first property, the 650-acre Mayacamas Estate, in 1989. Their sons, Chris and Timmy Hall, as children, planted the first organic vegetable garden on the property and spent their weekends caring for the vegetables and eventually selling them at a booth at the St Helena Farmer’s Market,

Chris later studied geology and fire science at the University of Colorado and then returned to Napa where he drives the development of Long Meadow Ranch’s diversified activities from wine to farming to hospitality. And, it was his experience with the organic vegetable garden that inspired his philosophy of responsible farming and building the vertically integrated agricultural business that Long Meadow Ranch is today.

Mayacamas Estate

The first property purchased by the Hall family in 1989, the 650-acre estate is located in the mountains above the Rutherford Bench. There are 16-acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and Merlot. There is an olive grove that is the oldest in California. The property is also home to turkeys, baby chickens, horses and highland bulls. The first wine produced from the property was in 1993 and it was made by winemaker Cathy Corison who was the winemaker at Long Meadow Ranch until 2003. Ashely Heisey has been the head winemaker since 2004.

Visit the Mayacamas Estate for a tasting overlooking the vineyard. Tours depart daily from the Farmstead and cost $75 per person. The visit includes transportation to the Estate, a wine tasting as well as house-cured charcuterie, cheese and olives.

Rutherford Estate

The Rutherford Estate was the next property added to the portfolio. Once a riverbed, the estate is located on a mineral-rich benchland. On this property, there are 74-acres planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are five acres of produce, including 500 varieties of organic heirloom fruits and vegetables. There is also a flock of chickens in a state-of-the-art coop and a colony of honeybees.

Anderson Valley Estate

In 2015, the Hall family purchased 145 acres in Philo, 69 of which are planted to vines, in the deep end of the Anderson Valley. Formerly an apple growing region, the proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the cool breezes make it an ideal place for Burgundian varieties.

Drive north to the Anderson Valley to visit the Estate tasting room and taste the cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Rose and Pinot Gris. Multiple wine flights, as well as an organic olive oil tasting and wines by the glass and bottle are offered. The tasting room is open Thursday through Monday and reservations are not required but recommended.

Tomales Station

Three miles northeast of Tomales Bay is the 500-acre cattle ranch where the Hall family is raising Scottish Highland cattle. They impregnate, raise and finish the animals on site, but they do not slaughter the animals on the property.

The Farmstead

The Farmstead located on Main Street in St Helena is where everything comes together. The General Store, located in the historic 1874 home of Logan Ives, is where visitors can purchase jams, bbq sauce, salts, wines and more, all produced in an on-site kitchen and all certified organic. Wine flights of the Long Meadow wines from the three estate vineyards can be enjoyed at the tasting bar, as well as olive oil flights and whiskey flights.

For a more intimate experience, the chef’s table, a private room within the General Store, offers wine and food pairing tastings during the day for $70 and Chef’s tasting menus for dinner for $170.

Next to the General Store is the Café offering coffee, fresh juices, house-made pastries, salad and sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. The restaurant at Farmstead is housed in a former nursery barn. It was opened in 2010 and serves modern American cuisine in a contemporary rustic setting. And, the beef served in the restaurant, as well as sold at the farmer’s market, is from the ranch. In addition, events are hosted at The Farmstead, including the Blue Grass series and a Guest Chef Series with live fire cooking.

The Hall family has the vision of being “a family-owned producer and purveyor of world-class wine and food that is economically successful and socially responsible using diversified, sustainable and organic farming methods.” And, they are achieving it.

In addition to the production of wine, vegetables, and meats, they focus on full-circle farming, utilize solar power and make their own fertilizers. They also support the local community with land trusts which protect the agricultural land. At the restaurant they offer corkage for the community and only charge $5 corkage in the restaurant, donating the fees to a different beneficiary each month.

To date, they have donated more than $200,000 to local, community-based nonprofit organization. And the most important foundation they have started is the Timothy Hall Foundation, founded in memory of their son Timothy Hall. Honoring his love of agriculture and music, the foundation has been dedicated to supporting innovate, cost-effective K-12 school programs in arts and sciences.

Read the original story in California Winery Advisor.

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With only two days in Lisbon, my friend and I were looking to pack in as much as we could. She emailed me asking if I might want to have dinner at Belcanto, a two-star Michelin restaurant. The 2019 Michelin Stars had just been announced and Portugal has twenty-six Michelin starred restaurants, twenty which have one star and six which have two stars. Belcanto had yet again received two stars. I knew it might be a bit of a splurge but I could not say no.

Of course, the challenge would be getting a reservation. We were only two weeks away from our trip and the website only had an email address on it. I reached out to a friend of mine in Lisbon who works for the elegant Palacio Estoril Hotel and thought he might be able to find their phone number and call from the same time zone. The next day, I had an email from him telling me that the restaurant was completely booked BUT he was able to get us a seat at the Chef’s Table. We would experience a tasting menu with wine pairing. We immediately booked the reservation.

Belcanto is owned by celebrity chef José Avillez. Avillez has worked with gastronomic superstars Ferran Adria, Eric Frechon and Alain Ducasse, as well as received his first Michelin star at Taveres, Lisbon’s oldest and grandest restaurant. Avillez took over Belcanto in 2012. An award-winning restaurant since 1958, Belcanto had been a late night gathering place for artists and opera patrons who frequented the nearby St. Charles theater, as well as a “gentleman’s club” where dancing girls performed on a small stage. Avillez renovated it into a subtle and sophisticated intimate restaurant with only 36 seats.

Two weeks after booking our reservation, and after a week of wine tasting in the Dão region, we arrived to Belcanto. We were greeted at the door and our coats were taken from us as we were escorted through the dining room into the kitchen. We walked past the chefs who all waved and welcomed us as if we were old friends.

We entered another door where we came upon our table, set for two. We took our seats and in front of us was the entire kitchen, with the pastry team closest to us. There was a sense of serenity in the kitchen as the cooks all worked at the various station. There was silence but when the chef spoke, each and every member of the kitchen would say “chef” out loud, almost in unison, to acknowledge what he had said.

As we settled in, our host, or rather our conductor for the evening, Luis welcomed us. He was funny and charming and his words were like poetry as he explained that we were embarking on a journey with familiar flavors but new textures and some surprises.

To begin, we were served a Dirty Elderini with a spherical olive El Bulli, inspired by Avillez’ time working at El Bulli in Spain. A clean drink with a hint of sweetness, the El Bulli olive was filled with vermouth and melted in the mouth. It was a refreshing drink to start our evening.

The sommelier then came to our table to present the first wine for the evening.

We began with the Filipa Pato 2017 Nosso Calcario Bical from Bairrada, a region between the hills of the Dão region and the Atlantic Ocean. Bical is the primary white wine grape of both Bairrada and Dão and produces an aromatic and well-structured wine with soft acidity. The delicateness, freshness and delicate acidity made for a perfect pairing for the first few dishes.

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Please The Palate by Allison Levine - 1w ago

Fifty years is a long time for a winery in California so that is quite an achievement for Fezter Vineyards. In addition to longevity, Fetzer has been a leader in sustainability and protecting the environment from the beginning. They have been cultivating change since 1968 and continue to, as I wrote about in the Napa Valley Register.

Fetzer Vineyards is celebrating their 50th anniversary. Owned by Chilean company Concha y Toro since 2011 and one of the largest wine companies in the United States, one might think that they have achieved their pinnacle after five decades.

But, Fetzer Vineyards has been ahead of the game from the beginning. And as they celebrate 50 years, they look forward to the future with a lot of innovations.

Founded 1968, Fetzer Vineyard was established with an earth friendly ethos before it was trendy. Sustainability is embedded in the DNA of the company. They began farming wine grapes organically in 1987 after being inspired by an organic vegetable garden on the property. Over the decades, Fetzer Vineyards:

  • began tracking and reducing waste since the 1990s
  • has been using 100 percent renewable energy since 1999
  • received biodynamic certification on some vineyards
  • installed a solar array comprising 75,000 square feet of panels
  • became Zero Water certified and is the world’s largest winery certified as a B Corporation as of 2015.

Fetzer presented carbon neutral wine grapegrowing best practices at the Paris Climate Talks in 2015 and became certified CarbonNeutral in 2016.

Over the decades, Fetzer has been recognized for their work in cultivating change. Fetzer received the first Enhanced Environmental and Economic Leadership Award from the California Governor in 2008. In 2017, Fetzer Vineyards was honored with the United Nations Momentum for Change award for their work to mitigate climate change.

They were one of only 19 global enterprises awarded and in addition, they were the only winery and the only U.S. brand honored. Fetzer was also the first recipient of the California Green Medal Leader Award in 2015 and received two additional awards in 2017.

And 2018 brought more accolades when they were recognized as a “Changemaker” among certified B Corporations due to their “measurable, verified progress towards enhancing its leadership sustainability in the wine industry and beyond.”

This list of achievements was accomplished in the first 50 years, but Fetzer has more in store as they plan for the next 50 years. The company wants to leave the world a better place but putting more back into the world than what they take from it. Their regenerative practices include building soil health, rebalancing the water cycle, increasing biodiversity and ecosystem resiliency and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

Their achievement of CarbonNeutral is just the beginning. By 2020, they plan to reduce water use at the Hopland winery by 15 percent and to reduce energy use by 20 percent, both from their 2015 baselines. They also plan to achieve carbon neutrality, divert 99.9 percent of waste from landfills or incineration, purchase 90 percent or more of grapes from certified sustainable or organic growers and increase their B Impact assessment score from 95.1 to 100 (out of 200). The ultimate goal is to be net positive in 2030.

In addition to being an agent of change in their environmental work, Fetzer has continued to release new wines and has launched a new line of wines, the Fringe Collection. The Fringe Collection is a luxury product, with only 500 cases of each wine in the portfolio produced. Winemaker Sebastien D’Noso, who has been at Fetzer for two years, is sourcing fruit from out-of-the-way vineyards. He is looking to create wines that express the place they are from and is selecting fruit from areas based on their soil, fog, altitude and proximity to the ocean.

The Seafall 2016 Chardonnay, West Sonoma Valley ($40) is a Chablis-inspired chardonnay. The fruit is from the Heintz Vineyard in West Sonoma Valley and is one of the closest vineyards to the ocean. The wine is barrel fermented in neutral barrels and spends time sur lees, resulting in an austere wine with citrus, red apple and lemon curd notes, high acidity and a silky mouthfeel.

The Rockbound 2016 Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido Vineyards ($60) – The shale on the label represent the soils found under the vines. The Pinot Noir is barrel fermented and ten percent whole cluster. It has vibrant aromas of raspberry, pomegranate, violets and brown spices. The shale soils contribute to the minerality of the wine, which has high acidity but is silky smooth.

The newest addition to the Fringe Collection will be the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Coombsville, an area with rocky soils and high altitude.

With new product lines and their focus on climate work, Fetzer Vineyards is on the path towards their next 50 years.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.

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How old do you think the youngest winemaker is? What if I say 10 years old?  That is right!  Meet 10-year-old Cruz Bilbro who is a  who is 10 and he just raised ALOT of money for charity! And, if you want to help him raise more money, mark December 9, 2018 on your calendar and read my story from the Napa Valley Register below.

Winemaker Cruz Bilbro is the fifth generation in his family to make wine. But what sets him apart from other multi-generational winemakers is that he is only 10 years old.

When Cruz asked to make wine, Jake agreed but said he would make it for him, and his goal was not to profit from his son. Cruz selected Grenache from the property and went out with the crew to pick grapes. He worked the forklift, measured the brix and temperatures and did all of the punch-downs. Jake guided his son along each stage, explaining his options, but each and every decision was made by Cruz.

Cruz made a total of two barrels of Grenache. And when it came to finishing the wine, Jake offered Cruz a bit of Syrah to blend into his Grenache but Cruz was happy with his single variety wine and declined his father’s offer.

Cruz created his own label and his wine is called Too’s Babor because when he was little, that is how he said his name Cruz Bilbro. From a young age, Cruz has also loved John Deere tractors and put a drawing he did of one on his label. The Too’s Babor Grenache has an approved TTB label and is a commercial wine.

With the wine made, it would have been easy for Jake to sell Cruz’s wine to his own mailing list. But Jake told Cruz that he had to sell his own wine and told him that he could keep the first $100. Cruz sold his first barrel of wine to Chef Emeril Lagasse for $100 after Lagasse came to the winery and tasted his wine.

With Lagasse as a partner, Cruz traveled to New Orleans in November with his parents to attend the Emeril Lagasse Foundation’s 14th Annual Carnivale du Vin, where a live auction with 24 lots took place. One of the live auction lots was Cruz’s wine.

Cruz and Jake wore matching tuxedos that Cruz had selected, as well as green ties representing his love for John Deere tractors. Cruz stood on the stage in front of all the guests as his wines were auctioned off. Each bottle sold for $2,500 and cases sold for $30,000 each.

According to Jake, people were buying the wine by the caseload and in the end, Cruz’s lot raised $277,000. It was the highest lot of the night, even outselling his father’s auction lot, which included drinking wines from Limerick Lane and Arista Winery while watching the Atlanta Braves play a home game from an executive suite.

Jake and his wife want to teach their children about the hard work and economics of making wine but also want them to see the benefits. “We are so fortunate. We see people working so hard to help others and it is our responsibility to do all we can to support. We are committed to using Limerick Lane responsibly and to teach our children to do good,” Jake said.

Cruz and his parents arrived in New Orleans a day before the charitable event was to take place to visit the beneficiaries of the money raised. The Emeril Lagasse Foundation’s mission is to create opportunities to inspire, mentor and enable youth to reach their full potential through culinary, nutrition and arts education.

Projects funded by the Foundation include an outdoor classroom, gardens, fresh food cafeteria and teaching kitchen at Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, an accessible learning kitchen for special needs students at St. Michael Special School, a four-year culinary arts program for high school students at New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Hospitality Center at Café Reconcile and hospitality training at Liberty’s Kitchen for at-risk young preparing healthy school meals.

Cruz and his parents met homeless people, special needs people and under-privileged children. He also met a teacher who told him how the money raised would pay a teacher’s salary for a year. On stage at the Carnival du Vin, Cruz said, “After I made this wine, I wanted to keep the money for myself. But after I saw Saint Michael’s, I felt good about donating it.”

Cruz returned home from the event in New Orleans and was inspired to host his own party. He designed the entire party himself, asking his grandfather to make his minestrone soup and asking Andy, one of the Limerick Lane staff, to play music with his band. He asked his best friends, Jake McWilliams and Brady Mauritson, to have their fathers Mark McWilliams of Arista Winery and Clay Mauritson of Mauritson Wines pour their wines at the event, along with his own father Jake Bilbro of Limerick Lane. There will also be tractor rides and hayrides.

The event is Sunday, Dec. 9, at Limerick Lane in Russian River, and tickets are $100 each. Each ticket includes a bottle of Too’s Babor 2016 Grenache. And Cruz decided that all of the money raised will go to the North Bay Down Syndrome Foundation, in Brady Mauritson’s name.

Cruz’s wine will be a part of two more upcoming fundraising events with Lagasse. He has also been fielding requests from other charity events, as well as the Sonoma Country Barrel Auction. He has two barrels of 2017 and made another two barrels in 2018. This young winemaker is well on his way and offered Lagasse another barrel, but at the higher price of $300. And, his 8-year-old and 6-year-old siblings are following in his footsteps as they each made a couple of barrels of wine in 2018 as well.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.

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We must all take care of the communities that we live in. We should live sustainable lives. We should do good in our lives. These are challenges that we can undertake as individuals and as businesses and one business doing that is Long Meadow Ranch in Napa Valley. You can read about the family-owned business that does all of things in my recent column in the Napa Valley Register, and republished below.

On Main Street in St. Helena is Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. From a coffee in the morning to a tasting in the afternoon to a dinner at night, it’s a one-stop shop. And with it comes sustainability and health, supporting the community and doing good.

Long Meadow Ranch is a family-owned business. Ted and Laddie Hall bought their first property, the 650-acre Mayacamas Estate, in 1989. Their sons, Chris and Timmy Hall, as children, planted the first organic vegetable garden on the property and spent their weekends caring for the vegetables and eventually selling them at a booth at the St Helena Farmer’s Market. This organic vegetable garden inspired Chris’ philosophy of responsible farming and building the vertically integrated agricultural business that Long Meadow Ranch is today.

The integrated agricultural business is a concept the Hall family calls Full Circle Farming. It is an organic, sustainable, integrated farming system that relies on each part of the ranch to contribute to the health of the full operation. They use solar power and make their own fertilizers.

There is the 650-acre Mayacamas Estate home ranch, the 90-acre Rutherford Estate and the 145-acre Anderson Valley Estate. From the three estates, they grow grapes, olives and organic heirloom fruits and vegetables. And all of the products produced from the estate, including wine, olive oil, jams, barbecue sauce and more, can be found at the Farmstead. And, the beef served in the restaurant, as well as sold at the farmers market, is from the ranch.

The Hall family supports the local community. They are focused on protecting the agricultural land through land trusts. And, they donate fees to different beneficiaries each month through their “corkage for community” program. For locals, as well as visitors, if you bring a bottle of your own wine into the restaurant at the Farmstead, you will be charged only $5 corkage. And the fees from the corkage are donated to a different beneficiary each month. To date, the Hall family has donated more than $200,000 to local nonprofit organizations.

The most important foundation the Hall family started is the Timothy Hall Foundation. Founded in memory of their son, Timothy Hall, and honoring his love of agriculture and music, the foundation has been dedicated to supporting innovate, cost-effective kindergarten-12th grade school programs in arts and sciences.

There is something very satisfying in visiting and spending money at a business that cares so much about sustainability and the community around them.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.

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