Sierra Foothills and El Dorado County: A Golden State wine destination

The hills of El Dorado County are famed for the gold rush in the late 1800s. Hopeful prospectors arrived in the region, set up camp but also planted grapevines. So fun wine history is everywhere. Today, there are over 70 wineries to explore in the El Dorado American Viticultural Appellation (AVA). I found the area lush with earnest smiles, low-priced tasting fees and no attitude — a refreshing departure from the glitz and glam flourishing in, ahem, other wine regions close by. With over 30 different grape varieties growing there, it’s an enchanting place to explore Italian-origin varietals like Barbera and Sangiovese as well as Riesling, Viognier and Malbec.

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10 outside the drawer uses for ordinary kitchen gadgets

Kitchen Gadgets

In my experience, streamlining tools is something cooks rarely do. Bring on the gadgets — zester, lemon squeezer, cheese grater — and I’m in kitchen heaven. But small kitchens need tools that multitask. This article reveals some insights and tips from Celebrity Chefs like Andrew Zimmern, Curtis Stone and Ellie Krieger on how to get the most out of the gadgets you already own.

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Wine review: Franco-Espanolas Rioja Bordón 2008 Riserva

Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon

From the north-central region of Spain famously called Rioja comes an exceptional example from a wine area finding its own again. Welcome back earthy, robust Rioja. You took a trip to a few famous wine writers’ palates and thankfully, you came back to your authentic home where you belong. By Spanish law, a Rioja Riserva must be aged in barrel for two years then held in bottle for another two before release, so thus the 2008 vintage. It’s one of the only wine regions that sells its wines when they’re ready to drink. A blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha (Grenache) and 5% Mazuelo grapes, the Rioja Bordón Riserva has characteristic Spanish dustiness tinged with black cherry aromatics. It’s best enjoyed after being decanted for 10-15 minutes, to bring out its inner beauty. Rioja Bordón sports a personality of a warrior who secretly likes rom-coms — some flavors of strong brewed tea, smoky oak and a touch of silky tannin, balanced with the soft fruitiness of black cherry, plum and blackberry. Food friendly and enough acidity to stand up to a long list of fatty foods — from grilled ribeye slathered in a spicy rub to aged cheeses like Parmesan Reggiano. A fantastic effort for an obscenely low price.

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Main course recipe: The perfect herbed roasted chicken

Herbed Roasted Chicken

Is there a better smell in a home than roasting chicken? The way the fat melts all over the skin, basting the meat with all its goodness… it permeates a room with tummy-rumbling aromas. Mmmm. It’s taken many years to craft my quintessential roasted chicken recipe — it captures the simplicity of an easy-to-cook pleasure. Make this five-ingredient recipe your own by changing up the herbs as you like them — I like rosemary, parsley and thyme. It features very little hands-on time — weeknight dinner prep time even. Try it with any of these side dish recipes and a bottle of unoaked Chardonnay or subtle Pinot Noir. It’s taken many years to craft my quintessential roasted chicken recipe that captures the simplicity of this pleasure. Make this five-ingredient recipe your own by changing up the herbs as you like them — I like rosemary, parsley and thyme. It features very little hands-on time — weeknight dinner even. Try it with any of these side dish recipes and a bottle of unoaked Chardonnay or subtle Pinot Noir.

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6 tips to build a better breakfast and why

Bacon and Egg Breakfast

Hate to admit it, but Mom was right: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Since food is the fuel for you body, what you eat absolutely sets you up for a productive or a sluggish morning. A better breakfast — heavy on the protein rather than carbohydrates — will set your metabolic rate higher for the entire day, avoid a mid-morning blood sugar crash, and prevent you from scarfing down anything that moves at lunch. Sounds nice huh?

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Recipe: Cauliflower cous cous with bacon

Caulflower Couscous

I firmly believe that cauliflower has experienced a renaissance because of the South Beach and Paleo diets. Both of these lifestyles embrace a wide variety of vegetables, and getting creative is crucial to keeping things exciting. In these lifestyles, cauliflower subs for starch in many different ways but especially mashed potatoes and, in this instance, pasta. Nutritionally, however, this white veggie is far from a starch. Loaded with vitamins C and B-12, it’s also high on the fiber list and even sports some protein. This recipe for faux “couscous” could also become a main course if you add some cooked chicken or ham.

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Wine review: Kim Crawford 2013 Pinot Gris New Zealand

One of the funny, ironic tidbits about Kim Crawford wines is that they aren’t produced by or owned by a female like many believe. The winery was founded by a super cool guy named Kim but he sold his eponymous wine brand over ten years ago (read about the history here). Quality suffered for a few years, especially after Winemaker Jules Taylor left in 2008, but current winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst appears firmly back on track with this 2013 Pinot Gris from the cool, green grassy lands of New Zealand.

Read more: Wine review: Kim Crawford 2013 Pinot Gris Malborough (New Zealand)

Five food books worth reading to get healthy

Eating on the Wild Side

I read about nutrition a lot. Almost obsessively. But there’s a good reason — the information in printed (and electronic) pages is how I learned to keep weight off and my health optimal, despite my daily food and wine gluttony. With the constant misinformation floating around our culture, it’s been helpful to read a myriad of opinions, test out theories and figure out what’s best for my bod. It has worked, so I’m sharing my recommended reading list of books which most dramatically influenced me in my quest to stay thin while eating and drinking for a living. Of course, I also gather helpful, healthful tidbits everywhere (including the Tufts University nutrition newsletter) but these books are the mainstays.

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