I have become the person who annoyed me my entire restaurant career: “The Substituter.” Imagine not being able to eat anything on a restaurant menu. You search, stare, analyze the ingredients the chef lovingly created for your eating bliss. The server returns five times but the compulsive research isn’t complete. Cursing ensues. Yep, this happened the first time I hit a resto after Project Fix Leaky Gut commenced — at a Spanish tapas place that’s fabulous, Bravas, in Healdsburg, CA. I had a salad (sauce on the side), and some meat without the sauce. Uh huh… how much fun is that? I empathize with vegans now. Kinda. To cure my food allergies, studies have led me to the Auto Immune Protocol (AIP) regime, which I’ve followed quite religiously for the last two weeks. (PhD in medical biophysics Sarah Ballantyne has been a huge resource: ThePaleoMom.com). I can eat meat, fish (those that I can enjoy without an inflammation eye blow up), vegetables and minimal fruit. Plenty of probiotics are added in to help heal the intestines, including sauerkraut (made my own), kombucha (a new fave), and yogurt made with coconut milk (non-dairy and challenging to find, but possible). A friend called it Paleo on steroids. I found that ironic, yet true. I will do this for 8 weeks. 60 days. 60 long, long days.
Read more: Project Leaky Gut: Curing food allergies with AIP (part 2)
Every so often, I come up with a fabulous kitchen sink recipe that wows my family. And sometimes even me. I throw a bunch of ingredients together in a pot or sauté pan , taste, season and then taste again until it’s palatable. The “wow” thing happens much less frequently than the “meh” but, hey, ya gotta eat. And be creative. When I read the tech sheets for this wine sample (sent from Markham), the list of grapes reminded me of my kitchen sink creations. A red wine made from six grapes, the winemakers at Markham likely meticulously (not carelessly) blended this wine, tasting and re-tasting to make sure it’s right. This time, they landed on a “wow”.
Read more: Wine review: 2012 Markham Vineyards Cellar 1879
About ten years ago, I awoke with half of my face swollen like a pro boxer had kicked my head in. Eyes, lips and cheek itching with puffy, dark patches of brooding skin stared back at me in the mirror. All I could say was WTF? Panicked, I hightailed it to my general practitioner doctor who took one look at me and calmly asked, “Did you have shellfish for dinner last night?” As a matter of fact, I had. Canned crab from Asia, the makings of a delicious dip at a dinner party. And the last time I’ve ever consumed crab from a can. Diagnosis: allergy to shellfish. But not just the deliciousness of crab, add in shrimp, lobster, mussels, oysters, and all their other crustacean friends. A little while later, tuna and farmed salmon joined the party.
Read more: When food became my enemy: A quest to cure my food allergies
I visited J Lohr ages ago, wide-eyed and somewhat new to California wine (I studied wine in Europe first then learned domestic grogs). The tour was lengthy, the hospitality warm and the wine impressive. I don’t remember a Rhône program there but that’s because it wasn’t until a few years later that they started down that road. A nice journey it has been. I lean more towards their Rhône whites — Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier — than their reds. The Syrahs are over-oaked for my palate but some people love that.
Read more: Wine review: J Lohr Gesture RVG Paso Robles
For some people, curry is comfort food. Scents of home and slow cooked goodness that fill a kitchen with strong, earthy aromas. I often crave curry and, if I’m not turning to Roasted Curry Cauliflower, I’m making this recipe. Mostly, I use frozen fish and any hearty white fish will be fine. Avoid tilapia since it’s too delicate and will fall apart. Alternatively, you could substitute peeled, deveined shrimp but, since it cooks quicker, add it to the saucepan with the peppers and basil.
Read more: Recipe: Aromatic green or red curry fish or shrimp
As we emerge from the doldrums of the economic downturn, people are rediscovering sparkling wine and Champagne. Bubbles can be sanity-saving– salve a bad day, make Meatloaf Night an occasion or help celebrate a holiday. Luckily these days, high-quality sparkling wine comes in all price points. So whether you have a Hamilton or a Franklin in your wallet, it’s easy to toast to the good life. In the $10 – $25 range, the choices appear endless. From super affordable Italian Prosecco and Cava to carefully crafted Californian sparklers, the wine lover wins. Most French Champagne and American sparkling wines are made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes (a third red variety, Pinot Meunier, is often blended in). But Italian Prosecco and Spanish Cava producers use indigenous grapes that are easier and less expensive to grow. And, as the infomercials say, the savings are passed along to us.
Read more: Bubbles for all budgets: Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Cava and Prosecco
Besides the seasonality of this vegetable, I’ve always wondered why we relegate pumpkin dishes to the fall. It comes in a can year round — which is far easier than spearing a fresh gourd — so we could be enjoying its comforting, smooth and rustic flavors all the time. It might be the cinnamon, nutmeg and other fall-tinged spices which contribute to pumpkin’s autumnal reputation. I can’t really talk… I practice the same prejudice but perhaps it’s time for a pumpkin revolution. Go ahead… make this pumpkin roll in the summer. I dare you. Your family and friends will love you for it. That, I guarantee… it’s a fantastic recipe.
Read more: Holiday (and other times) recipe: Easy pumpkin roll dessert
Since I already own just about every food and wine gadget, I can imagine what a pain in the ass I am to shop for. Some tools I use regularly, like my J Vineyards branded Champagne opener or Microplane grater. But some ended up either being re-gifted or donated, like the cordless, electric corkscrewoddly resembling a vibrator – the thought of using it puts a smile on my face, although my old-school Screwpull openergets me there quicker. As we all know, the best gifts are the thoughtful ones; even if inexpensive, they’ll show that you took the time to be creative or find the unique. To come off as someone who thinks, here are my gift suggestions for the wine and food lovers on your list, whether they be newbies or connoisseurs. It’s always nice to give the gift of great food and wine.
Read more: Seeking the unique: Food and wine gifts for all seasons