Category Archives: Wine

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupThanks to the entertainment industry, the City of Los Angeles creates opportunities arguably better than most cities in the United States. Case in point is the The Lucques Group, headed by chef Suzanne Goin and her business partner Caroline Styne, who has been the sommelier and wine director for the company since its inception.

A scant 20 years ago, there still weren’t many women who owned restaurants. Of course, Josie La Blach had her eponymous Santa Monica eatery. We also can’t forget the Border Grill ladies, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feininger. Nancy Silverton was baking bread and scones at La Brea Bakery, and Joan McNamara, a caterer turned restaurateur, are about a few of the holdovers from the previous century.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Started in 1998, the now legendary Lucques was a success cementing at least the future of the two young women at the helm, Goin, in front of the stove, and Styne, managing the business and front of house and beverage direction.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupFormer Los Angeles Times critic S. Irene Virbilia noted in her 2009 review of their Brentwood Larder, “Styne and Goin are the food world’s equivalent of Lerner and Loewe or Leiber and Stoller. Everything they do just seems to work effortlessly. The two share a certain sensibility and aesthetic. At any of their restaurants, there’s a sense of comfort and sensuality, contemporary rustic cuisine and warm but crisp service, and enticing environment. But most of all, they each have a strong sense of place.”

Ms. Styne, along with Ms. Goin, are native Angelenos, which is as hard to find as needle in a haystack. Both exude the clean living of a California life, but Ms. Styne was the epitome of West Coast style at a recent Hollywood Bowl media event. She appeared nonplussed by the media attention around her and her partner. In LA style, she smiled for the camera in a black and white herringbone frock perfect for the chill air on the stage of the arena. A glass of white swirled in her hand as the lightbulbs burst; she looked elegant and fit.

In her blog, Styne on Wine, she noted, “At my home, I played the role of wine steward and service captain. I would set the table, open the bottles of Bordeaux and pour wine for my guests throughout dinner.”

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupNow as part owner of one of the most thriving restaurant businesses in Los Angeles, with not one but five restaurants, a James Beard nominee, and catering for the Hollywood Bowl, Styne is a quintessential L.A. person living out their California dream in food and wine!

Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I’m the vegetable and grain cook in our home. My husband does the grilling because I’m the least comfortable with that. I love roasting or sautéing vegetables, making salsas and other yummy sauces to spoon over them.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
We always have Greek yogurt, olives, an array of cheeses, and wine!

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I love sharing a meal with people who love food and like trying new things. I don’t necessarily need to discuss each morsel and aspect of the food to death, but I like to know that I’m with someone who appreciates food and the art of cooking.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I don’t love eating with people who are uber picky or don’t love or appreciate food. It makes me feel uptight and uncomfortable. I’d rather just meet that person for coffee.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupBeer, wine, or cocktail?
There is a time and place for all three, but usually cocktails and wine.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Suzanne Goin

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
Breville Citrus juicer

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Indian and Mediterranean

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Chicken and seafood…love pork, too

Favorite vegetable?

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Jose Andres….great chef, great attitude, great humanitarian.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheese – all kinds, from all milks in all shapes and sizes

Food you dislike the most?
Offal…just not into it

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
I’m big on physical fitness. I really like to keep active and actually enjoy walking, jogging, and just moving my body. I also love fashion in too big a way.

Whom do you most admire in food?
Danny Meyer

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
I think Italy is one of the most fun and satisfying places to enjoy food and wine.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupWhat is your favorite restaurant?
If I’m not at home, I really love eating at my restaurants. I obviously love the food and the drinks. Suzanne and I always try to create restaurants that we ourselves would like to patronize, so I guess we’ve succeeded in that respect

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos…I’m boring that way.

Recipe: Asparagus and Proscuitto

Recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. To drink, Styne recommended in a William Sonoma blog post, “You can never wrong with champagne or rosé. I think both say, “Party!” and can take you from appetizers to dessert.”

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

• 1¼ pounds asparagus, pencil-thin variety
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
• ½ cup creme fraiche
• 12 thin slices prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele
• ½ lemon, for juicing
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Light the grill 30 to 40 minutes before you’re ready to cook.

Snap the ends off the asparagus to remove the tough woody portion. Toss the asparagus on a baking sheet with the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some pepper.

Stir the mustard and crème fraîche together in a small bowl, and set aside.

When the coals are broken down, red, and glowing, drape the prosciutto over a platter. Grill the asparagus 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly charred and tender.

Arrange the asparagus on the prosciutto and drizzle the mustard crème fraîche over the top.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio PeperoncinoIn 2007, New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov devoted an entire column to Do Bianchi (a Venetian term meaning two wines), a blog started by Jeremy Parzen. Asimov calls him, “One of those annoyingly talented individuals who speaks multiple languages, writes music, plays in a band, and also writes about wine meaning and food.”

Even though the annoying part was a gentle ribbing, Parzen is all those things. He holds a PhD in Italian, having lived in Pisa. He continues to travel back and forth to the boot-shaped country once a month from his home in Houston. Via his wine blog, Parzen is considered to be the foremost authority on Italian wines currently being written in North America; he has also been a food journalist and editor for the defunct Cucina Italiana, the widely popular magazine that was solely about Italian food, products, and cooking. He has penned additional stories for Wine & Spirits, Gastronomica, Men’s Vogue, and The Tasting Panel.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Sotto dining room. Photo Sean Murphy

Yet more importantly for consumers, his formidable knowledge on the nearly 1000 grape varietals used in making Italian vino is on display and available for tasting at Sotto, the Beverly Hills restaurant dedicated to regional Romanesque cooking. Here, with his friend of 25 years, Chef Steven Samson, guests can drink extraordinary small productions of vermentino or the Sardinian red fruit, cannonau, pairing it with handmade rustic pizzas and pastas.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Wine pairing at Sotto

“Working with Steve and knowing him for as long as I have, he let me push the envelope for the wine list,” says Parzen. “In the end, we have produced a menu that’s won a lot of people over and is selling.”
“Steve always said to me, ‘When I’m ready to open my restaurant, you will (create) my wine list.’ (At Sotto), we try and give a voice to the youthful wine culture. I specialize in Italians wines that are looking to (the restaurant) to  give it a voice.”

And when you can’t find Parzen drinking an Italian wine, you can find him on a stage playing French pop music in a band called Nous Non Plus. Renaissance man, indeed.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Sparkling wine.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Hearty appetite.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Fear of pickled herring or horse meat.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Wine pairing at Sotto

Beer, wine, or cocktail?

Your favorite cookbook author?
Craig Claiborne.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef’s knife.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, American, but not Italian-American.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?

Favorite vegetable?
Horse radish.

Chef you most admire?
Chef Steve Samson!

Food you like the most to eat?

Food you dislike the most?
Junk food. Processed food.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Play music.

Whom do you most admire in food?
Darra Goldstein.

Where is your favorite place to eat?

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio PeperoncinoWhat is your favorite restaurant?
Sotto! For real…

Do you have any tattoos?
Jews generally don’t get tattoos, so n/a.


Recipe: Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino. Photo: Flickr cc: Yusuke Kawasaki


Heat EVOO in a pan. Add garlic and chili flakes.
An anchovy, washed and cleaned, can be added as well, if desired.
Cook spaghetti until al dente.
Strain well and add to the pan.
Toss well and drizzle with EVOO before serving with a glass of Verdicchio.

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeOn a Wednesday night in Larchmont Village in the heart of Los Angeles, every table at Vernetti was full. The owner and chef Steve Vernetti was in the house, moving between the kitchen and the dining room, talking to everyone as though they were old friends. Indeed, it was obvious that there were many regulars. Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, the kind of place you come to rely on for all the important events of life – birthdays, anniversaries, and first dates. The atmosphere was lively, casual, and comfortable. There’s a modern European bistro aesthetic, thanks to Steve’s wife Joanne, who worked with designer David Thompson on the remodel of the original space. The staff made us feel like rock stars. The food was excellent.

His chef training started early. Vernetti notes, “Growing up, we learned how to butcher our goats, pigs, chicken, and turkeys. My brother and I got up at 5 every day before we went to school and milked the goats. We learned how to grow our food. My mother bought me my first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The first thing I made from that book was chocolate eclairs.”

Before settling in Los Angeles in the 90s, Vernetti traveled throughout Europe, gathering influences from Berlin, Paris, Venice, Amsterdam, and Florence. He then lived in London for seven years, working with Chef Charles Fontaine at Quality Chop House and Le Caprice. It is easy to see the old world influences mixed with the new at Vernetti, where Steve is in the kitchen every day experimenting with inventive takes on classic recipes.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

He’s also a thoughtful owner – “Working in the restaurant industry for as long as I have, I want my staff to be happy. We run a place where my dishwashers are key players in the business, just as much as the front of the house. We need the staff to be happy. If they are happy, my customers will notice it and they will be happy, too.”

We decided to try many dishes and share them round, starting with the gnocchi, a traditional northern Italian dish that is typically a rather dense potato pasta. This gnocchi was light and airy, rich with ricotta cheese and egg yolks, and topped with sage butter.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

We followed the gnocchi with vongole and shrimp scampi, since Vernetti is known for their house-made pastas. You’ll definitely want to try at least one.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Linguine alla Vongole
i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Shrimp Scampi

Dessert was a trifecta of orange cannoli, strawberry cheesecake, and chocolate mousse. Hey, there were three of us! I didn’t eat all of this on my own. Look, though…

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Chocolate Budino

Vernetti has an excellent wine menu, with a selection of Italian wines that covers the boot from north to south. There are also some great California wines on the menu. We decided to order by the glass so we could pair a different wine with each dish, which I think is a lot more fun. If you find something you love, you can always order more! You can also bring your own bottle and pay the corkage fee of $25.00. If wine is not your thing, Vernetti’s has a decent beer selection, though I confess my knowledge of beer is limited. I prefer the juice of the grape.

Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, and since I’m not a local there, I felt quite lucky to have found it. It reminded me of an Italian trattoria where the owners are always there and live nearby. The menu is fresh, and dishes are served until they run out of the ingredients to make that particular dish. I recommend this restaurant to everyone!

Steve Vernetti’s philosophy is to “feed the community as I do my family, providing a special place to celebrate all the amazing things that happen when sharing a delicious meal.” Cin Cin, Steve Vernetti.


Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking? 41 years

What is your favorite food to cook? Thanksgiving dinner

What do you always have in your fridge at home? strawberry jam

What do you cook at home? everything

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? hunger

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? unadventurous

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail? wine

Your favorite cookbook author? Julia Child

Your favorite kitchen tool? my tongue

Your favorite ingredient? salt

Your least favorite ingredient? kale

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeLeast favorite thing to do in a kitchen? dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? French, Italian, & British

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? beef

Favorite vegetable? potato

Chef you most admire? Eric Rippert

Food you like the most to eat? sweetbreads prepared by my mother

Food you dislike the most? anything that has the word molecular in it

How many tattoos? one

And if so, how many are of food? None

Recipe: Vernetti’s Semolina Pancakes

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

2cups Semolina
2cups all purpose flour
4tsp baking powder
2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients in a bowl and add:
3-4 cups buttermilk (plain whole milk will work)
1/2cup vegetable oil

Mix but leave lumps. Use well oiled cast iron pan or griddle on medium high heat and brush browned tops with melted butter – enjoy!



The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, CaliforniaThe city of Santa Barbara has been called The American Riviera. Matter of fact, as a travel destination, it’s been trademarked as The American Riviera under that name, bringing connotations of luxury and prestige. Beyond that branding, the area is home to truly great farming, including wine growing regions. There is also damn mighty fine eating if you get beyond the idea of high-end dining and leave that to the bigger urban centers. It’s not that the chefs aren’t capable and many of the small city’s dining rooms are decorated beautifully, but it’s why bother bringing a jacket or heels to a low-key area? After all, this is a coastal community and a college town, where flip-flops and shorts are de riguer.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California
Photo Credit: Terry Straehley

Interestingly, Santa Barbara provides a sublime campus for higher learning, as this is where – as noted – several colleges are based, including the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Antioch University, and Brooks College of Photography. Located along the Pacific Coast, about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara’s geography provides temperate weather, golden sand beaches, and incredible bike paths, supposedly evocative of the Mediterranean.

However, if cultural pursuits are really your interest, there is the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Furthermore, Mission Santa Barbara (named the Queen of the Missions), is one of the twenty-one Franciscan missions in the state of California. Well documented in the eighteenth century history books, the traveling and gospel spreading monks dedicated to transiting the indigenous peoples into Christians did so via sub-standard means and torture.

Even with all the college aged individuals, there is relatively very little nightlife and the streets roll-up early. But the beauty of Santa Barbara lies not in its evening but in the early part of the day, when people – visitors and natives alike – take up more physical pursuits, such as kayaking, beach volleyball, and fishing.

Breakfast: Tupelo Junction Cafe

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

When Tupelo Junction first opened, it was cozy with no more than a dozen tables packed onto a small side street. The walls were covered in burlap cloth and white washed with touches of red gingham, giving the impression that Tom Sawyer and his girlfriend Becky were manning the cook’s station. Maybe about a decade ago, the restaurant moved to State Street, closer to the action. The charming atmosphere was lost, but thankfully not the creative spin on Southern dishes. You can eat buttermilk pancakes slathered in creamy pan gravy or apple beignets.

  • Our Suggestion:  Dungeness Crab with Potato Hash, Avocado Salsa, Poached Eggs, and Beurre Blanc. This restaurant is a touch of France, big scoops of the America’s South, and the California coast.
  • Price: $18.00. (It has big pieces of crab throughout and worth every penny.)
  • Hours: Breakfast is served daily from 8:00am to 3:00pm.
  • Website:
  • Address: 1218 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA  93101
  • Phone: (805) 899 – 3100

Lunch:  Brophy Bros.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

This is a wharf restaurant that is worth just driving ninety minutes along the Pacific Coast Highway to dine for lunch.  It’s truly a quintessential Santa Barbara dining experience, overlooking the fishermen’s boats as they bring in their day’s catch. If you decide to have dinner here, the second floor outlook is one of the most beautiful places in California to watch the setting sun. It’s a busy restaurant and can have a very long wait.

  • Our Suggestion: New England Clam Chowder. Living on the West Coast, where food is mostly about becoming a rabbit – chewing a lot of veggies, no carbs and dairy – this is one of the most deliciously, decadent soups imaginable. It’s very East Coast made, with lots of clams, potatoes, and cream. The only thing missing is the Maine mist and chill. If you do take an afternoon drive to Santa Barbara, come here and have this as a cup with a salad for lunch, with a glass of white wine, and your life will be as perfect as fairy tale.
  • Price: $5.00 for a cup; $7.50 for a bowl.
  • Hours: Open daily from 11:00am – 10:00pm. They do not take reservations. First come, first serve basis.
  • Website:
  • Address:  119 Harbor Way (Harborside), Santa Barbara, CA           93109
  • Phone: (805) 966 – 4418

Cocktails: Canary Hotel’s Finch & Fork

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

Smack dab in the middle of the town of Santa Barbara is the Canary Hotel. White-washed on the outside with a distinct Mediterranean/ Mexican/Spanish feel, complete with clay tiles, red-roof, decorative irons and wood, it can be a little precious. But it’s a great place to stop for a mid-day cocktail or an afternoon repast as you meander through the State Street shops. New American cuisine with freshly bought bounty is served at the bar daily and in the main dining room.

  • Our Suggestion: This is one of California’s great wine countries. You need to sample the wine while here.
  • Price: Varies depending on the winery.
  • Hours: Open daily at 2:30 pm – 11:30 pm.
  • Website:
  • Address: 31 West Carillo Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
  • Phone: (805) 879 – 9100.

Dinner: The Wine Cask

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

Created in 1981, The Wine Cask is Santa Barbara’s landmark restaurant bringing the area’s food and wine to the forefront of dining scene throughout California. Farm to table long before the term was coined, the owner, Doug Margeruem, has long been resolute in showcasing the Santa Barbara County’s rich agriculture, most notably it’s wine growers. If ever there was a quintessential dining place — a must place to dine in Santa Barbara — The Wine Cask is the place. It’s like going to Beverly Hills and never eating at Spago, or dining in New York and never eating at Gotham Bar and Grill. There are some restaurants that you have to eat at if you are in the area. The dining room, with its painted beam ceilings and massive fireplace to keep out the sea chill even in the heat of the summer, is one of the California Coasts most stately and stunning.i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

  • Our Suggestion: The food is delicious and the produce is brought in daily from nearby farmers markets and vendors. Probably the closest you will get to the farm without actually picking it yourself.
  • Prices: Varies but American Wine Country cooking at it’s finest.
  • Hours: Nightly from 5:30 pm. Closed Sundays – Mondays.
  • Website:
  • Address: 813 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA                                91301
  • Phone: (805) 966 – 9463

Place to Stay: Simpson House Inn

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

Out of all the hotels in Santa Barbara, this is the one beyond reproach. It’s a small bed and breakfast, with 13 rooms, and no two rooms are the same. Therefore, each time you stay, the experience is different. And unlike the other hotels, which are managed or owned by big corporations, wealthy developers, or billionaires, this is luxury hospitality at its finest. Built by the Davies family, Simpson House Inn became an award-winning bed and breakfast, the only one to be named a “five diamond” by AAA and by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway. Like all b and b’s, breakfast is served daily – but it’s completely vegetarian. If it was never mentioned, a guest would never notice. Also, there is a two-hour afternoon wine tasting with a bevy of tasty snacks before dinner. For this intrepid traveler, I find this to one of my favorite hotels in the world.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California






Prices: Ranges according to accommodation and season. Prices can start over $250.00, but it’s worth every penny.

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California


The end. Go eat. 



i8tonite: Los Angeles’ Franco on Melrose, Chef Franco de Dominicis

IMG_1422Along a strip of Melrose Avenue, just past La Brea is Franco on Melrose. It’s location is in the City of Angel’s culinary corridor featuring a few of the most lauded epicurean stops in the city including Providence, Mozza, Mud Hen Tavern and Trois Mec. To the south, one can wander to Republique or Odys + Penelope.  It’s a hidden gem of an Italian eatery although a favorite among the celebrity set. However, the trattoria has been under the radar since its inception over four years ago. Why? Partially, says chef and owner Franco de Dominicis, “I didn’t have a beer and wine license. It was BYOB but now I do and things have changed.”

Originally born in Venezuela to Italian parents, de Dominicis was then raised in Paestum, Italy about a hundred miles south of Naples, renowned for its Greek and Roman archeological sites. The 2600-year-old settlement has also been known as the second largest agricultural center in Italy, the first being in Umbria. De Dominicis had an excellent childhood and gained a love of cookery via his family. He had formal culinary training at a Naples based school which supplied him with European apprenticeships. Now, in the States, the food he makes is indicative of his European and Italian roots, staying true to his youth.
IMG_3359Proudly, de Dominicis makes all of his own pasta, ravioli, and lasagna. Many of the recipes are adapted recipes from his mother and childhood. He also sources as much as he can from the farmers markets throughout Los Angeles. It’s a true Los Angeles-based trattoria serving up Neapolitan fare without having to travel to Italy.

Franco on Melrose is a lovely place with a sidewalk awning extending out to the valet. Its roof is canopied and during the summer is open to the stars. The best thing about the new Italian-centric wine menu which was personally selected by de Dominicis it’s priced so reasonably you can imbibe with that second bottle while looking at the stars.

Chef Questionnaire: 

IMG_1877How long have you been cooking? Since I was 13.

What is your favorite food to cook? Meat and fish and pasta.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Milk, juices, herbs, prosciutto, burrata, eggs.

What do you cook at home? Sometimes I get together with friends and I love to do brunch with roasted beef tenderloin and rack of lamb.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? An open mind to try different things.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Unwilling to expand their palate.

IMG_1242Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Rubbermaid.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Definitely wine. A full body red and champagne.

Your favorite cookbook author? Julia Child.

Your favorite kitchen tool? Hand mixer

Your favorite ingredient? Extra virgin olive oil.

Your least favorite ingredient? Okra.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Stirring for hours.

FullSizeRender (3)Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian, French, Caribbean,

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Beef.

Favorite vegetable? Haricot vert and brussels sprouts.

Chef you most admire? Gordon Ramsey.

Food you like the most to eat? Breakfast items.

Food you dislike the most? Russian.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None.

Franco on Melrose’s Roasted Chicken and Pears

  • 3-4 lbs. chicken, whole roasting
  • 3 Anjou pears (Peeled and cut into quarters)
  • 3 shallots (Cut into quarters)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalk
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
  • ½ a tablespoon of freshly cut sage. Or thereabouts.
  • Salt and pepper

To Make: Pre heat oven a 400 degree. Take the chicken and stuff it with the whole pears, some thyme, some sage, and 1 shallots cut into quarters. Tie the legs back with twine. Place the chicken in a roasting pan, with all the carrots and celery, cut into  pieces, add the rest of the shallots cut in ¼ as well, disperse the herbs around, poor the wine and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 45 minutes. Uncover the chicken and let it finish cooking, for another 15 to 20 minutes, until a nice golden brown and juices run clear.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Oregon’s McMinnville, Best Town West of The Mississippi

Downtown McMinnville, Third Street: Photo, McMinnville DowntownMcMinnville, Oregon is a town so wholesomely picturesque it borders on being a Stephen King settlement – meaning it’s so perfect a spot, something strange is bound to happen. A scant 45 minutes outside of Portland, it’s a charm-filled street scene with a couple of stoplights, red brick Victorian buildings, one post office, a few piercing and tattoo shops – it wouldn’t be Oregon without them — and the small town newspaper, right along their main drag, Third Street.

In 2014, Parade Magazine readers and editors named it Best Main Street, West of the Mississippi, an honorable distinction, second only to a Tennessee town (figures). During the summer, the leafy trees shade the sidewalks where couples stroll hand-in-hand while their little tykes pull their Fisher-Price telephones. In the colder months, people are doing the same thing, except in coats. The area wasn’t always a thriving economy, but it got assistance in the eighties by the burgeoning wine industry. With its red soil called jory, the Yamhill County area, where McMinnville’s located, is now the center of Oregon’s Pinot Noir country. It’s also one of my favorite eating destinations – in the world.

I’ve had meals in far-flung places that rocked my palate, but the element of surprise in a location, an ingredient or chef is what gets me. McMinnville, in my humble opinion, is one of the great small eating destinations in the country, and it was revelatory. I was smitten by the town’s quaintness but blown away by the sophisticated food.  Every diner, restaurant, and café, there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch.

Hash Crescent Cafe photo by Courtney ZBreakfast:  Crescent Café. Opened in 2007, this family owned and operated eatery offers locally sourced food and ingredients. Open only for breakfast, lunch and brunch, over a cup of strong coffee customers can talk forever to the staff about where the food is sourced. (Yes, it’s very Portlandia.) Best of all the bread is freshly made in-house including the English muffins. That alone is worth going the trip. Actually, if your in McMinnville, having breakfast here is a must – sort of like going to the Grand Canyon.

  • My suggestion:  Scrambles. They change daily. Light and fluffy eggs with a variety of choices of the day such as a Fontina Cheese, Bacon, and Sundried Tomato
  • Price:  Varies according to the market price.
  • Hours:  Monday – Friday, 7:00am – 2:00pm. Saturday – Sunday, 8:00am – 1:00pm
  • Address:  526 NE Third Street, McMinnville, Oregon 97128
  • Phone Number: (503) 435 – 2655
  • Website:
Tuna Melt, Courtesy of Community Plate
Tuna Melt, Courtesy of Community Plate

Lunch:  Community Plate. The menu was created by Chef Eric Bechard, from the nationally acclaimed restaurant and winner of Oregon’s “Best Restaurant” in 2011, Thistle. The owners, husband and wife team Scott and Courtney Cunningham, seized the opportunity to craft a humble American neighborhood place sprinkled with scrumptious sandwiches, house-made pastries and a social atmosphere. At this little spot, the food is completely made on-site – from nut butters, to bread, to pickles. It’s also not an arm and a leg.

  • My suggestion:  Grilled Cheeses. Oregon cheesemakers highlight this grownup white cheddar, chévre and Swiss sandwich with sautéed apples, a little fresh thyme on house-made bread. Simply one of the most delicious concoctions between two slices. One oozy bite and the eater receives a jumble of sweet, herbaceous and savory tastes.
  • Price: $11.
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday, 7:30 am – 3:00 pm
  • Address:  315 NE Third Street.
  • Phone Number: (503) 687 – 1902
  • Website:

McMenamin's Ale, Courtesy of McMenaminsSnack Time:  McMenamin’s Pub. Located in a historic, Victorian hotel, this Oregon-based, family run brewhouse, pub, restaurant, coffee roaster and winery crafts delicious beers. The carved wood-filled space has a Pacific Northwest camaraderie where you hunker down at the bar, order up a cold one or a coffee and make friends in a minute. There are several McMenamin’s throughout Oregon and Washington, but they’re located in a significant, historical building, which keep the integrity of the community.

  • My suggestion:  Get a beer. They many including IPAs, stouts and seasonal ales, all made in consideration of the environment.
  • Price:  Varies
  • Hours:  Sunday – Friday, 7 am – 11 pm; Saturday 7am – 1 am.
  • Address: 310 NE Evans Street, McMinnville
  • Phone Number: (503) 472 – 8427
  • Website:

Nick's: Courtesy of Nick's Italian EateryDinner:  Thistle might be an obvious choice, but I have to give it Nick’s Italian Café.  In 2014, The James Beard Foundation honored this 40-year old restaurant with an “American Classic” award. When it first opened in 1977, McMinnville was a small farming town – now it’s a hub of the most sought after American pinot noirs. This casual restaurant with the pool table in the back has been producing some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest Northern Italian food. The audience has broadened incorporating more travelers, but Nick’s Italian Café is still a neighborhood place since the creation of Oregon Wine Country.  For me, Nick’s was an epiphany of the idea of small-town restaurants. I remember entering the compact restaurant with an antique stove centered against the wall. The waiter mentioning we could wait in the “Back Room” for the table, watch a game of billiards. I thought this was not going to good. It turned out to be one of the most deliciously, memorable meals I’ve ever had.

  • Dungeness Crab Lasagna, Courtesy of Nick's
    Dungeness Crab Lasagna: Photo, Nick’s Italian Cafe

    Oregon Dungeness Crab Lasagna with Local Pine Nuts. I know you are not to mix seafood with cheese but – goodness gracious…this is the reason why you should.

  • Price: $16
  • Hours: Opened Monday – Sunday: Lunch, 11 am – 3 pm; Dinner, 5 pm – 11 pm.
  • Address: 521 NE 3rd Street, McMinnville
  • Phone:  (503) 434-4471
  • Website:

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Eating in Oregon's McMinnville

Photo: Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

The End. Go Eat. 







i8tonite: A Special Thanksgiving with Famed Wine Retailer, Gary Fisch: His Wine Selections & Celebratory Cheese

Everyday folks will not know the name, Gary Fisch, but in the wine world, to those who sell and make wine, he is an icon. He personifies entrepreneurs at their best.  Fisch’s stores are considered to be the number one  seller of high-end California wines. Although based in the state of New Jersey, the stores sell throughout the United States. To honor such a distinction, Gary’s Wine & Marketplace was chosen as Market Watch Magazine’s 2014 Retailer of The Year.  This year, They have received the honor of the 2015 Great Oak Award from New Jersey Monthly for corporate social responsibility.

Since opening his first store in Madison, Fisch has grown his business from $800,000 – starting in 1987 — to a $50 million business today. Gary’s Wine & Marketplace have an additional three locations including Bernardsville, Wayne, and Hillsborough along with the original site. They also have an on-line shopping experience with shipping to 37 states.

Fisch followed in his father’s footsteps and began his career in the 1980s as a salesperson for a local wine and spirits distributor. Gary and his brother purchased their first 1,200-square-foot liquor store in Madison, NJ, then named Shopper’s Discount Liquor. In 2000, the Madison store was re-branded as Gary’s Wine & Marketplace and associated it with Gary’s personality, presence and his increasing accumulation of wine knowledge.

Fisch travels annually to Napa Valley sometimes three to four times a year tasting, selecting and purchasing wines. He says,” There is great wines in the world everywhere, but I have a fondness for Napa Valley. I was able to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday with our family. It was truly unique.” He recounts the day fondly as his family feasted and drank with wine doyenne Margit Mondavi and celebrity chef Michael Chiarello.

However, he also has a fondness for Italy as well as he talks about luscious Tuscany and Piedmontese grapes which he loves to taste and explore.

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace is the source of top Napa and international wines and bottles. They may be in the Garden State but their retail arm is omnipresent. For collectors, oenophiles and everyday people, Gary’s Wine & Marketplace – which also sells cheese and wine accessories – is the emporium for an unparalleled selection of luxury vintners and knowledge.

Food People Questionnaire with Wine Retailer, Gary Fisch:

What is your favorite food to cook at home?  Burgers on the grill. Or if no one’s looking, sardines on a salad.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Umm…wine!

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Someone who laughs at my jokes, which means I can only eat dinner with the same person once.

GaryFischWhat marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Wine snob.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Wine, of course!

Your favorite cookbook author? I don’t use cookbooks. But if I had to, I would choose one of Bobby Flay’s books.

Your favorite kitchen tool? Spatula.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Anything my wife cooks.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Chicken.

Favorite vegetable? Spinach.

Chef you most admire? Michael Chiarello.

Food you like the most to eat? Anything.

Food you dislike the most? Blue cheese.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Run.

Who do you most admire in food?
Danny Meyer, his staff continually delivers exceptional service and hospitality.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Napa.

What is your favorite restaurant? In Napa, Farmstead and Bottega. In New Jersey, Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen (Morristown, NJ) and Redux (Madison, NJ).

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?  No tattoos!

GaryFischThanksgivingPicksSPECIAL THANKSGIVING DAY: WINE PAIRINGS CHOSEN BY GARY FISCH. (Find more selections by visiting Gary’s Wine & Marketplace website.)

2013 Murrieta’s Well “The Whip” (White Blend)
Livermore Valley, California

If you’re not sure whether to get a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc, we suggest you go with Murrieta’s Well “The Whip”—a white blend of 28% Semillon, 24% Chardonnay, 14% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Orange Muscat, 11% Viognier, 11% Gewurztraminer, 1% White Riesling.  This sophisticated white blend can hold up to the variety of flavors at Thanksgiving dinner, and will delight both Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc fans. With pronounced aromas of white peach, pear, citrus and melon, along with flavors of cantaloupe, green pear, and butterscotch, Murrieta’s Well “The Whip” is the perfect crowd-pleaser wine for Thanksgiving.

2013 Second Growth Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon
This Oregon Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley is an enjoyable, silky, multi-layered wine that you are sure to enjoy during Thanksgiving Dinner. With bright red fruit aromas and flavors of candied cherry, pomegranate, cranberry and raspberry, along with a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon, this elegant Pinot Noir Pair will pair with salmon, ahi tuna, veal, pork, poultry or hearty vegetarian entrees.

2012 Chase Cellars Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel
Napa Valley, California

Capturing the essence and complexity of our ancient vines, while maintaining youthful appeal from the fruit of the younger ones, this Zin has sweet red and black fruits which surround a rounded core of soft but ample tannins, offering up a mouthful of supple textures and layers of lovely fruit.

GARY’S GUIDE TO CREATING AN IMPRESSIVE HOLIDAY CHEESE PLATTERS: Need to make a cheese platter?  No problem!  Just following the simple steps below and you are guaranteed to impress your guests.

Start with the basics; You should always have a creamy cheese, hard cheese and a semi soft cheese. My recommendation would be a Delice de Bourgogne (a brie like French cow’s milk triple crème cheese), Manchego (a Spanish Sheep’s milk cheese) and Cotswold (an English onion and chive cheddar made with Cow’s milk). You always have the option to add a goat cheese and/or a blue cheese to the mix depending on your taste.

Dress up your cheese: You can dress up your cheese with all types of yummy items. Try Truffle honey drizzled over a fresh goat cheese, fig jam with Spanish cheese, like as Manchego, or red pepper jelly with brie.

 How to eat your cheese: You can eat your cheese on so many things!

  • Assortment of breads, such as, baguette, ciabatta, semolina or a cranberry walnut bread (delicious with blue cheese)
  • Don’t restrict yourself to a plain cracker.  Try something with flavor such as, Jan’s farmhouse cranberry pistachio cracker or Stonewall Rosemary Parmesan Cracker.
  • Add fruit to the platter.  Any addition of fruit is a perfect paring for cheeses.  Try these on your next platter, grapes, strawberries, fresh figs, pickled pears, cherries soaked in brandy and that’s just to name a few!!


Let’s get Plattered (this is the fun part)

There are so many options.  You can choose from a ceramic plate or a rustic looking slate board.  There are so many option so let loose and have fun.


When you’re finished making the platter pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back and dig in.  Cheers!