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Mark Pavelich

La Crema: Pinot You Can Rely On

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If you had to pick one California Pinot Noir label that year in and year out produces consistently fine Pinot Noir from multiple appellations at reasonable prices, La Crema would certainly come to mind. When neighbors, friends, and young people ask me what Pinot Noir to buy to take to a dinner, I often tell them La Crema. they usually thank me afterward, but La Crema is an easy recommendation to make. The wines are widely distributed (the winery website,, will help you find the wines close to home), with prominent placement on the top shelves of supermarket wine displays.

La Crema Winery is a family owned estate in the Russian River Valley that specializes in handcrafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from cool climate vineyards in Sonoma, Mendocino and Monterey counties. Established in 1979, the winery has never allowed visitors (except for special events such as Winter Wineland), but the label quickly gained a reputation for quality. The owners are Laura Jackson-Giron and her sister Jennifer Jackson (family members belonging to the Jess Jackson clan).

Several winemakers developed the La Crema Winery style through the years, including Dan Goldfield (Dutton- Goldfield) and Jeff Stewart (Buena Vista). In 2004, La Crema hired Melissa Stackhouse to oversee all aspects of winemaking, and the wines reached a remarkable high level of quality despite the relatively large production and value pricing. The popularity of the label has never been higher and La Crema is consistently one of the top selling restaurant labels.

Stackhouse first joined La Crema in 2000 as an assistant winemaker. Before La Crema, her winemaking experience including stints at Peter Michael Winery, Hardy’s Tintara Winery in McLaren Vale, South Australia, Robert Mondavi, Sterling and Joseph Phelps Vineyards. She holds a degree in viticulture and enology from University of California at Davis. Recently, Stackhouse was promoted to Pinot Noir winemaster for all Jackson Family Wines, but will continue to be a part of the blending panel for La Crema. Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, who has been the assistant winemaker since 2004, will become winemaker at La Crema. Assistant winemaker Eric Johannsen is to take on the associate winemaker position at La Crema.

Winemaking includes careful sorting, de-stemming, 5 to 8 day cold soak, aging for 7-8 months in about 25% to 30% new tight-grain, medium toast French oak barrels, and minimal fining and filtering.

La Crema has supported sustainable farming since 1999, when they were among the first wineries to become a certified Sonoma County “green business.” 75% of La Crema’s vineyards are farmed using “non-tillage” practices to reduce carbon dioxide output. In all the estate vineyards, composted grape pomace and chipped vegetation are added to replenish organic matter. Habitat boxes in the vineyards for owls, bluebirds and falcons help to naturally control vineyard pests. Riparian areas that border vineyards are planted and maintained. Beneficial insects are introduced to eliminate the need for pesticides.

I last tasted through the La Crema lineup of Pinot Noirs in the 2005 vintage when the wines showed beautiful balance and attractive textures but were more similar than different. With the 2009 vintage wines reviewed below, I discovered more appellation-specific character. All the wines can be recommended for early drinking. Prices vary widely depending on the retail source. Appellation-specific coastal region wines are produced from the Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma Coast AVA, Los Carneros AVA, Anderson Valley AVA and Monterey AVA. La Crema also produces an age worthy reserve small production (200 cases) expensive bottling labeled Nine-Barrel Pinot Noir which has received many accolades from the wine press.

Getting to Know Basil

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Latin Name: Ocimum Basilicum
With all the tomatoes floating around this summer – yes, as far as I am concerned it’s still summer, and no one tell me otherwise – our thoughts naturally turn to the classic accompaniment to them, the beautifully aromatic basil leaf.
Flavour Profile and Growing Basil:
There are a few different kinds of basil, with the most common being sweet basil, with its characteristic bushy deep green leaves. The others are Thai basil, Lemon basil and Purple basil. These varieties all have their own flavours. Sweet basil starts off with a slight peppery note, and finishes with its distinctive sweet anise essence. Purple basil is more savory, while Thai basil is extremely characteristic with its anise notes and is sometimes called Pepper basil. Lemon basil, which is harder to find obviously has citrus notes to it.
Basil is native to Asia and Africa, and is widely cultivated in Europe and North America as a culinary herb. Indian Hindus will usually have a small ‘holy basil’ or ‘tulsi’ plant in their houses, as it’s considered sacred. Tulsi, is drier and less lush than sweet basil, and is used more for medicinal purposes, rather than culinary ones.
Basil is a finicky herb to grow and needs a lot of sun. Plant your seeds indoors and transfer them outdoors once it is hot enough and no chance of frost. Harvest leaves regularly to encourage growth, pinching off the centre stems to prevent flowering. You can also grow your basil indoors. Check out our FBC tutorial on growing herbs inside your house for more information.
Storage and Use of Basil:
Basil is best used fresh off the plant and is a staple in Italian and other kinds of cuisine. If you cannot bring your plants indoors, you can harvest basil by pinching off large bunches of leaves, drying them quickly and freezing them. This helps preserve them for the best flavour. You can also dry the leaves completely (you can even dehydrate them) and store them in airtight jars.
One of the most popular dishes that use basil is obviously pesto. Fresh basil leaves are blended with pine nuts, garlic and olive oil, with parmesan and pecorino cheese and served with pasta. In Genovese cooking, pasta, new potatoes and crisp green beans are boiled together and served with fresh basil pesto. There are also several other dishes starring basil, including the famous Margherita pizza.
Along with its culinary use, basil is also widely used in traditional medicine, including Ayurveda, where it is used as a remedy for colds and fevers. Basil tea is also used to relieve chest congestion, and it is used as a home freshener in many countries. Basil oils are also used in perfumeries, and in the cosmetic industry for skin care supplements.
And finally, did you know that basil seeds are also edible? They are used as coolers in many countries, and expand and go fuzzy when soaked in cold water and drinks, especially in the Indian classic, falooda.
by Michelle Peters Jones

Anthony Bourdain’s 3 best tips for eating great when traveling abroad

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If you like traveling and you’re an even bigger fan of food, then you might also be a fan of Anthony Bourdain. The restaurant chef turned author has become a popular TV personality in recent years, first with his show No Reservations on the Discovery Channel and now with Parts Unknown on CNN.

At 6 feet 4 inches tall, Bourdain has a large and respected presence in the worlds of food and travel. The 58-year-old is known for his honest, no bullshit approach to exploring and telling the story of cities around the world through the people there and the foods they eat.

The fifth season of Parts Unknown premeires on CNN on Sunday, April 26 at 9 p.m. ET. He’ll be exploring South Korea, Miami, Scotland, New Jersey, Madagascar, Budapest, Hawaii and Beirut.

We caught up with Bourdain in-between shoots. He talked about how, when it comes to food, people tend to play it safe when they travel to unknown places. He stressed the importance of eating great — especially when in the most foreign of lands.

“If you’re some place magical like Venice and you want to see the same people you see in the Hamptons or in St. Bart’s then, you know, there’s something really terribly wrong in your life,” Bourdain says with a laugh. “If your idea of eating great only happens at places like Phillipe or Mr. Chow or Cipriani [in New York City] … where you’re paying five times the going rate then, well, it’s already too late for you.”

Don’t settle. Be adventurous. Here are Bourdain’s tips for eating great when traveling to faraway places.

1. Be open to ‘happy accidents.’

The greatest meal, Bourdain says, is the one “you need right now.” For instance, he recalls a time in the Caribbean when he was riding scooters with his girlfriend. Out of nowhere — as it does in that part of the world — it suddenly started pouring rain. Needing to get off of the road, Bourdain and his companion pulled over next to what appeared to be a dilapidated wooden shack with a tin roof. Bourdain worked up some courage and went inside.

“There was a sinister-looking dude wearing a dirty t-shirt, grilling chicken in a sort of sawed-off 50-gallon drum,” he says. “Mangy dogs were walking around. But we sat down at a table under a bare lightbulb and ordered that chicken.

“Everything about it was unexpected, but it came together,” Bourdain continues. “The beer was cold, the right song — something by Peter Tosh — came on the radio. It was a happy accident, and it was the best jerk chicken I’ve ever had. There’s something to be said for letting great meals just happen to you.”

2. Go out of your way to get genuine advice.

While happy accidents can be great, Bourdain recommends also getting some local intel. But don’t simply ask your hotel conceriege where to eat. “That conceriege is sending you to a place they know tourists will like,” Bourdain says. “Don’t eat like a tourist. That’s not the type of knowledge you want.”

Get food recommendations from real locals. This doesn’t mean you should start interrogating random people on the street or in a bar, Bourdain says. Before you arrive at your destination, tap your network. Find out if you know someone — or know someone who knows someone else — who lives or has lived in the place you’re traveling to. Ask that person about where the great food is. The individual should be able to recommend a place because the food is amazing or the experience is great, not simply because it’s easy to get to or the bathrooms are clean, Bourdain says.

If you don’t know anyone in the city you’re traveling to, Bourdain has a fun alternative: Try posting a fake food review to an international food or travel site. Pick a random place and make up a story about how the ramen you ate there blew your mind. “Then, wait for all the angry food nerds to tell you how wrong you are and about all the other places you should go instead,” he says.

3. Explore, explore, explore.

Hopefully your time abroad isn’t all go go go on business. Take some time for yourself. Get outside and explore the area. Be observant.

“Look at what the locals are eating, and eat that,” Bourdain says. “If you’re in a restaurant where everyone looks like you, like a tourist, you probably wound up in the wrong place.”

If you want to eat amazing seafood, explore the local seafood market. “Chances are high that a guy selling fish in a fish market will know where you can eat great fish,” he says. “He might well know where you can get an amazing bowl of pasta, too.”

When you see locals crowding into a restaurant, the food there is probably good. Even if you aren’t familiar with the food, consider giving it a try. “Work up some courage, take the plunge and just walk into a place,” Bourdain says. “That simple moment when you get good yakitori or something else you’ve never heard of for the first time — its a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.”

Written by: Jason Fell Source:

Characters Fine Dining in Top 100 Restaurants in Canada

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EDMONTON – Six Edmonton eateries made the list compiled by OpenTable of the top 100 restaurants in Canada.

The list, released Thursday, from the online reservations provider reflects the combined opinions of more than 275,000 dining reviews submitted by verified OpenTable users for some 1,500 restaurants. The reviewers dined at the restaurants between Feb. 1, 2014 and Jan. 31, 2015.

Read article here (The Edmonton Journal)

Taste of Iceland in Edmonton: April 9-12

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Enjoy Icelandic food, music, film, and more during this exciting cultural weekend in Edmonton!

Taste of Iceland is coming back to Edmonton this spring in response to popular demand! This exciting cultural event will celebrate Iceland’s food, music, and film from April 9-12 to give Edmontonians a taste of what life is like in Iceland. Click here to RSVP on Facebook, and join the conversation on Twitter & Instagram by tagging @IcelandNatural with the hashtag #TasteofIceland.