Time to Jazz It Up

New Orleans Jazz Fest is coming up soon (nojazzfest.com). Our friend and sometimes traveling companion, novelist Julie Smith, a resident of the French Quarter, has been trying to get us to the Fest for years. Alas, The Chef and The Wine Chap always seem to be tangled up in events during Jazz Fest.

©2012 Ron Scherl

©2012 Ron Scherl

So The Chef has put together a Jazz Fest DIY menu for all of us who can’t make the scene.

Right, just create your own Jazz Fest. Put an Irma Thomas CD on the player, tuck in your napkin, open another bottle of rosé and let the good times roll!

You can throw a Jazz Fest party and do the whole menu or pick and choose your favorite bits.


*Pepper jelly and cheese crostini

*Cheese grits topped with NO style bbq shrimp


*Grilled oysters with anchovy butter

*Fried chicken with remoulade sauce

*Mini muffuletta sandwiches


*Chopped hearts of romaine with heirloom tomatoes and creamy lemon confit dressing

*Grilled seasonal vegetables

*Creole spice rubbed and grilled wild salmon with sweet and sour corn relish

*Chicken and andouille sausage jambalaya

Donkey & Goat’s Take on Orange

stone crusherOrange wine is not just for wine geeks.  Although some wine critics have dismissed orange wine as a fad, there is a growing appreciation that the best of these wines offer an exciting new palate dimension.  They are especially interesting wines to pair with food.

But I’m jumping ahead in the plot. First, what is an orange wine?  The short answer and the only one needed here is that an orange wine is a white wine that has been left on the skin for several days, up to several months in extreme cases.  Leaving a wine on the skins (white or red) adds tannin and astringency to the wine.   It also adds an indefinable complexity, a layering of flavor that fully engages the palate.

Also, orange wines are usually fermented without adding commercial yeast and fermented in open top wood vats or sometimes in clay.

Just speculation but I am guessing that the white wine that Marc Anthony and Ms. Cleopatra shared had an orange hue. How orange depends on how long the wine is left on skins.

What all this is leading to is the bottle of Donkey & Goat 2013 Stone Crusher Roussanne that The Chef (Ann Walker) and I shared one recent evening.  The Berkeley winery has long been a favorite of ours but somehow we had never tried their orange wine, even though they have been making it since 2009.

The Chef immediately declared it an excellent wine for pairing with vegetables, especially the Kaboucha squash and mild Thai red chili soup she had made that afternoon. As we slowly tasted our way through the bottle—finishing the last glass with Blue Lupine, a blue cow and goat cheese from Weirauche Farm and Creamery in Sonoma.  The Chef further declared it would go well with a great range of food, especially richer more intense dishes.

“I’d like to make a roasted leek and herbed mushroom bread pudding to taste with this wine,” The Chef said as we regarded the empty bottle at the end of the evening.

Considering the wine itself, the orange tint is not deep. In a bad light it could pass for a rosé in color. Not in the mouth, of course.  There is an intense minerality, a tangy acidity leading to a long wrap around finish that leaves the taste buds asking for “more, please.”

Try a bottle. If you like it as much as we do, ask The Chef to design a menu for you based on Stone Crusher Roussanne.

I’m still waiting for that mushroom bread pudding.

===Larry Walker, The Wine Chap


Make Yourself Comfortable

Back Camera

There is a lot of talk about comfort food but just what is it, anyway?  I asked The Chef (Ann Walker) to define comfort food.

“Can’t be done,” The Chef said. “Comfort food depends on where you are from, how old you are, whether you are a man or a woman.”

Tell me more, I said.

“Let’s begin at the beginning.  It is a fairly new term, as food talk goes,  First used in 1977 according to Webster’s Dictionary.  I do get a lot of clients who tell me they want comfort food and when I ask what is comfort food for them, it’s just all over the place.

“For some, comfort food is grilled cheese sandwiches. Others call for mashed potatoes and gravy.  I think chicken wings might be one of the new comfort foods.  Oh and pizza. Don’t forget pizza.”

Does it matter where you are from.

“Absolutely.  If you grew up in New Orleans you comfort food is gong to be way different than someone who grew up in San Francisco.  I’ve seen research that there is even a difference between men and women when it comes to comfort food, Men prefer high carb foods, you know, meat and potatoes.  Women are more likely to go for sweets or even more healthful foods.  In the end, comfort food is whatever makes you happy,” The Chef said.

What are some of the strangest requests you’ve had for comfort foods?

“We once catered a party for some Australians. They insisted on vegemite on toast.  Well, why not, I thought.  I have a Brit friend who insisted on Spotted Dick for her birthday dinner.  We did it.  The kitchen staff was amused.”

What is your comfort food?

The Chef didn’t hesitate a moment. “Paella. No, I did not grow up in Spain. Never got there until I was almost 30, but paella gets to me. I try to never let a birthday go by without paella.”

What is it about paella that makes it your go to comfort food?

“It makes me happy. Makes me feel like smiling. Makes me in love with the world.”

Ann Walker’s Paella Recipe

(It will make you smile.)

The Chef has even developed a recipe to bring paella into the comfort zone of California’s back yard cooks—Paella cooked on the Weber.  Don’t let the length of this recipe intimidate you. It goes quite fast and once you have it down, making a paella is ridiculously  simple.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 pound tomatoes, chopped

1/2 pound cleaned squid, tubes sliced into rings

1 1/2 pounds meaty chicken pieces, cut into chunks. Use all dark meat for more flavor.

1 pound thinly sliced Spanish chorizo

2 teaspoons salt, or more, to taste

6 cups chicken stock, fish stock or water

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

3 cups short-grain rice, preferably Valencian or Italian

1 pound cleaned mussels, in shells.

1 pound prawns, in sells

1 cup fresh peas or 1 pound asparagus tips (optional)

2 lemons cut into wedges

Light the coals in a covered Weber-type barbecue. When coals are white hot, heap them in center. Place paella pan on grill above hot coals and pour in the oil. When the oil is hot, add onion, garlic and cook until limp. Stir in tomatoes and cool until dry. Push the vegetables to the side, add squid, chicken and chorizo. Sprinkle with salt. Grind the saffron threads to a powder in a mortar and add or simply rub the threads between your palms and sprinkle over the chicken.

Continue coking, turning the chicken pieces over until it begins to brown, about five minutes. Add the stock or water. At this point you may want to add a few sticks of kindling to the fire to bring the stock to a boil.

Taste for salt. The broth should be slightly salty. Continue to cook with broth at a rapid boil for about five minutes.  Stir in the rice, turning the chicken over so all the rice is submerged in broth and cook for about ten minutes.  Arrange prawns over the top of the paella. Arrange the mussels hinge side down around the edge of the paella. If you are adding peas or asparagus tips, do it now. Cook another five minutes, then close the cover of the cooker and cook another five minutes.

Remove the paella to the table and cover with a cloth, letting it rest for about five minute. Decorate with lemon wedges, garnish each dish with a lemon wedge and squeeze over each dish.