After Dark

Off the Menu Podcast: Not Vegan Friendly



Warning: Today’s episode is not friendly to vegans and vegetarians (i.e. my co-host, Ryan. Jake is safe.) Foie gras, fried chicken, and our thoughts on the show about to replace Anthony Bourdain re-runs on the Travel Channel.

Bonus: An Aaron Sorkin-worthy delivery of statistics on how much animal product the United States consumes during a calendar year.


Off the Menu Podcast: High Tech Food?



Jake, Ryan, and I attempt to hone our Silicon Valley-esque wit by discussing some of the latest developments in food and cooking technology. To Be Determined: Are these products we would dip into our respective booze, bacon, and snack funds to purchase? More important, are these products you’d actually consider buying?

Don’t miss one product clouding my mind with rage to the point where I call Europe a country. Not my finest moment. The first person to send me the time stamp of when it happens gets a tray of lemon bars shipped to them. (In my defense, Jake also calls the agencies and NPOs assisting developing countries, “charity people.” Blame it on the vino.)

Too Much Time with Runny Yolk Folks

Is it possible to remember a time before eggs with varying degrees of runny yolks were put on top of everything?

Okay. It’s not that bad, but you catch my drift, yeah?

The first time I remember seeing an egg added to a dish in the matter-of-fact way tinsel gets added to Christmas trees was in December 2006, on an episode of “Top Chef: Season 2.” Elia Aboumrad, who ended up tying for third place that season and now is a co-owner of Gorge in Los Angeles, won a breakfast challenge after preparing a waffle topped with ham, cheese, and a fried egg.

Sounds delicious, right? I mean, I’m down for that. It’s not like fried eggs are a novelty, though. They’re eaten for breakfast all over the world, and society has coined at least four descriptive phrases for this particular cooking method, making the precision and consistency required a source of anxiety and “reasons we don’t go there for brunch.”

(Informal Survey: Do you take your fried eggs sunny side up? Over easy? Over medium? Over hard? Let me know. If you’re vegan, how do the important people in your life who consume eggs like them to be prepared?)

I’m not trying to morph anyone into a makeshift short-order cook. Believe me, I’ve seen how tough those humans have it, and I know you parents and others with younger nuggets to care for are not up for opening a restaurant kitchen in your home when it’s time for dinner. It’s clear that this trend is going to be around for awhile, and I’d like to advocate bringing it into home kitchens to save you $3-5. Maybe this is just because I’m the loon who buys two-dozen eggs, then stands in my kitchen with a few frying pans and a large pot of boiling water.

Egg Cookery Hacks I’ve Learned from Various Food Sources That Actually Work:

A. If you’re making an omelette, once the eggs look like “curds” in your frying pan (like the fluffy soft scrambled eggs dreams are made of), let the eggs sit for 10 seconds. Seriously. Do nothing. This is what will make your omelet stick together. And FYI, your omelette should be soft in the middle. Don’t burn it, please. For the sake of humanity and the children. (For a complete omelette hack, check out this post.)

B. When poaching eggs, make a “whirlpool” in the pot of simmering water, and slide the egg into the center of the whirlpool. This will prevent the egg white from spreading out in the water, i.e. the difference between failure and success.  (Thanks, Alton Brown.)

C. Heat the plate you are serving eggs on. Eggs get cold obscenely quickly. Pop them in the oven on the lowest temperature. If your plates aren’t oven-safe, keep them ready in hot water. Cold eggs suck almost as much as flimsy bacon. If you serve me cold eggs, I will stare at you until laser beams come out of my eyes and damage your soul.

D. Use a rubber spatula for all endeavors in which you are cooking eggs in a frying pan. Respect the eggs. You’re not Christian Grey in his BDSM playroom.

E. If you’re looking for a runny yolk or soft scrambled eggs, your eggs are done the instant there is no excess liquid running around the pan. Stare at it and you’ll see what I mean. Thank me later, enjoy your eggs first.

My latest experiments are with half-boiled eggs. I (like most home cooks) do not have the ability to sous vide my eggs at 63, 62, or 61-degrees, (although I’m thinking about asking for the appropriate equipment from Santa in eleven months), so my eggs are less-than-aesthetically-stunning, but still taste delicious.

When I up my consistency level, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, what are you waiting for? Get your oeuf on. (It sounds so much sexier in French.)


Off the Menu Podcast: Well Hi, Thanksgiving. When did you get here?

I’m 99% certain that I possess magical powers. I blinked twice and a seemingly vast amount of time passed. One blink for fall (seriously, Los Angeles, when did you get seasons?) and one blink for Thanksgiving.

In this “Off the Menu,” a baker (Kelly), a Jew (Janna), a vegan (Mr. Burch), and a weird human (did you have any doubt that it was me?) discuss Thanksgiving. You asked questions, and we did our best to answer.

Click play, set your bread out to get stale, order your protein now – because if you haven’t, it’s probably too late, and open a bottle of wine.

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

“You’re A Decadent Girl” – Starting Exploration of The Dom Perignon and Birkin of Spices

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”          –Mae West

We’ve all felt like this on occasion. And it’s freakin’ great.

There is nothing wrong with embracing excess. In the midst of truffle-mania, things wrapped in bacon, and “topped with a runny egg” taking over the universe, I’m more interested in the subtle indicators of decadence that drive up food cost.

This is not to knock any iteration of “truffle” on the market. (With the exception of truffle oil. Seriously, y’all. Don’t buy that stuff. There’s a ridiculously high likelihood that it hasn’t been made from real truffles. A chemist has made a pungent scent, bottled it, and called it flavor. Buy salt or the expensive shrooms in their natural state.) At an average of $5 per gram and $2,000 per pound, shaving these bad boys over pasta, steak, eggs, or rice is still one of the easiest ways to throw down the “foodie” gauntlet.

Trivia: Truffles (specifically white truffles), Beluga Caviar, and Saffron are the only food items to grace the planet’s top-25 “most valuable substances by weight” list.
Other substances on this list include diamonds, heroin, meth, cocaine, LSD, plutonium, and Californium 252 (the isotope used to find layers of oil and water in wells clocks in at $27 million per gram).

So what’s up with saffron? Why do these red-orange flower filaments cost up to $2,000 a pound? Why do we pay between $7 and $14 for a few threads?
Saffron threads are picked by hand, and it can take around 75,000 individual threads to produce one pound. An additional complication is that saffron needs to be harvested between DAWN and 10:00 AM, otherwise aroma and color decreases.

Trivia: Saffron has been traded for more than four million years. Iran currently has the main market on saffron, being responsible for 90% of its production.

I’m planning on making a saffron risotto at some point during the next few weeks. I want the natural buttery texture of risotto with the honey-and-hay scent of saffron. Maybe with an egg yolk on top. Shit. That’s another cliche. Does it matter? Probably not.

Personal Trivia: Saffron is supposed to be the signature scent for the Sagittarius sign of the zodiac. I’m not entirely certain how down with that I am.

Vanilla is directly after saffron on the “most expensive per unit volume” list.

Why vanilla?
First, I’m not talking about the extract used in most forms of Betty Crocker baking. Nothing wrong with it, but that’s not what’s being discussed. Think vanilla beans. Vanilla flowers are persnickety little buggers. They have to be hand-fertilied, or they’ll die. They have to be picked at very specific times, or they’ll die. PURE vanilla extract clocks in at $8.50 for 4-ounces, with individual beans costing $1.89 EACH.

Trivia: We can thank our fascination with vanilla flavor to its expert cultivation by pre-Columbian mesoamerican Aztecs, leading Cortés to become fascinated with both vanilla and chocolate during his expeditions in the 1500s.

I have to admit, I’m not very innovative or kinky with my use of vanilla beans. I’ve only used them for flavoring custards……and enjoyed it in ice cream.

Stay tuned for updates on my anxiety at using two of the most pricey ingredients in the world. I’m sure there will be plenty of sarcasm and memes utilized as coping mechanisms.

A Meditation on Deep Fried Things

While at dinner with a friend, my eyes popped. It was just a piece of shrimp tempura. Breaded, fried, served with a sauce. Why all the fanfare? It was the first time I can remember taking genuine pleasure in something deep-fried in far too long.

Deep frying has popularized with large assistance from fair culture. If you can eat it, someone somewhere has has attempted to submerge it in batter and hot oil. Why the allure, though? It’s not the most original cooking method. For me, it’s the trashy indulgent nature of it. I’m a rebel. I like being bad.

I mean, sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me. Just ask Rihanna what I’m taking about.

Not only that, but eating fried food creates automatic bragging rights. By eating something deep fried in the wake of Type 2 Diabetes, heartburn, and various other medical media surrounding the correlation between saturated fat and disease, you become the Andrew Zimmern of calorie exploration or the Anthony Bourdain of grease.


That’s it! Well, one of several “its.” A large factor in enjoying fried food comes with how much excess oily or fatty matter is left in the final texture and taste. Deep-fried food should be hot when served, seasoned – and I mean it has to taste like something besides batter, and battered an appropriate amount – otherwise all you’ll taste is flour. And don’t get me started on the condition of the oil something is fried in. If the oil has been sitting for too long (i.e. old oil), is at too high of a temperature/burning, or the food is left in the oil for too long, that rancid taste runs through what you’re consuming.

The phrase “Deep Frying” wasn’t documented until the 1930s, with the popularization of potato chips, but European and Arabic cultures in particular have been deep-frying for much longer than that – think Middle Ages and the BCE region. I lack this length of experience with deep fried mania, but I still feel comfortable sharing my opinion on what is and isn’t worth pursuing.

Deep-Fried Do, With The Indicated Provisos:

  • Banana Chips – Only if coated in sugar, honey, chocolate, or spicy goodness. The singular time I will tell you something sweet is an addicting snack food
  • Croquettes/Croquetas – When made well, these cure hangovers in ONE bite. Creamy bechamel sauce with various meat, veg, and spices, AND it’s fried? I’ve been known to inhale these three-at-a-time. For my twenty-second birthday party, the group of friends I went out to dinner with ordered FIFTY of these for the table to share.
  • French Fries – Definitely possible to screw up, but always worth searching for the unicorn.
  • Chicken – See above reference to French Fries.
  • Pommes Dauphine and Crab Puffs – If you can find one, try it. Not everyone makes either of these, which means they’re usually made well.
  • Pickles – Only if the creamy dipping sauce is actually flavorful and not cheap bottled ranch bullhockey.
  • Beignets, Malasadas, Donuts, Cronuts, Bomboloni, Churros, Funnel Cake, Loukoumades, Zeppole And Various Savory and Sweet Fried Dough Concoctions – Exploring this aspect of deep-fried is worth a post by itself. Note: If it’s not coming directly out of the fryer, into a glaze or powdered sugar, and into your possession, it’s not worth getting. When you bite into it, steam should escape. Please don’t let the variety of donuts I know the names of discourage you. You’ll get there.
  • Samosas – Don’t let me get near a bag of one of these. Just make sure there isn’t an audible tinge of grease hanging around. They should be flaky, light, and full of flavor with no taste of oil or sogginess.
  • Arancini – For those of you who don’t speak Italian, these are fried risotto balls. See above reference to samosas for how they should taste.
  • Chicharron aka Pork Rinds – Never by themselves. Always as a top garnish or appetizer vessel. Make sure they’re spicy.
  • Corn Dog – Only if it’s dipped in real pancake batter and the sausage is made in-house. FYI: Chorizo corn dogs are never worth it.
  • Falafel – Only in New York City or from a similar sort of cart
  • Fish and Chips – Only in England, Scotland, or Ireland. Everywhere else is a terrible imitation. The breading will be too thick.
  • Tempura – Make sure the batter isn’t as thick as your pinky and that your dipping sauce doesn’t taste of salt.
  • Tortilla Chips – If I have to tell you what a good tortilla chip should consist of, you haven’t had a good one yet. Keep looking for Prince or Princess Charming and you will get your Disney-esque Happily Ever After.
  • Tonkatsu anything in Japanese Culture – It must come over rice and have some sort of glaze over it. It should glisten with desirable goodness.

Deep-Fried Don’t Question, Just Don’t:

  • Twinkie, Mars Bar, Snickers, Klondike Bar, Oreo, Coca Cola, Butter (Yes, Deep-Fried Butter Exists) – Anything stereotypical of a fair environment that sounds like the best iteration of a childhood sweet isn’t what you think it is. All you taste is batter.
  • Pizza – The base is usually an inexpensive frozen pizza. That should be enough to turn you off.
  • Finger Steak – Steak is meant to be moderately bloody. Deep frying it detracts from the carnal caveman desires eating a skillfully cooked ribeye invokes.
  • Ravioli, Mozzarella Sticks, and Jalapeno Poppers – More often than not, the cheese ends up burned and gives the sensation of gnawing on dry-cleaning bags.
  • Hushpuppies – I don’t care how light these are supposed to be, the sensation is that of swallowing lead.
  • Chimichanga – See above latter reference to hushpuppies. These are worse.
  • Calamari – Really? You like the taste of rubber?
  • Onion Ring – See above reference to calamari.
  • Chicken Fried Steak – Gravy is needed to add flavor for a reason. Just don’t.
  • Egg Roll – A prime example of things that taste like nothing but the wrapper containing the bulk of the dish
  • Oysters or Clams – They’re supposed to taste like the ocean orgasmed on your tongue, not stale bread crumbs.
  • General Tso’s Chicken – There’s actually chicken underneath that nonsense? I would never have been able to tell.
  • Noodles – Really? A wok isn’t enough to bring the flavor out?
  • Scotch Egg – Why would anyone ruin the gorgeousness a well-cooked egg inspires by breading and frying it? Madness.
  • Spam Fritter – I am the largest Spam advocate on the mainland, but these are too much nonsense. Enjoy Spam for what it is. Did I really just advise that?
  • Agedashi Tofu – Another that only tastes like batter and oil.

Jury is still out on buffalo wings.

Let me know if you agree, disagree, or want to add something to either of these lists. I’ll be here.

Don’t Screw With Our Beer: “Off the Menu with CmC” Podcast



This edition of “Off the Menu with CmC” will help you grow a mustache. Seriously y’all, testosterone is thick here, and it’s going to break over you like a wave. “Manly Night” was full of beer…..more beer….and love advice, combined with a discussion about the perfect way to assemble a breakfast burrito.

Don’t miss me chugging a 22-ounce bottle of a Stone IPA beer, and burping into the microphone. I’ll ship a bottle of the beer we’re drinking in this episode to the first person able to identify when that happens. (No fake IDs though. Getting arrested is never worth it.)

Around the Table at this Podcast:

Sydney (Yours Truly) – A woman actively hoping to up her testosterone with copious amounts of high-quality whiskey, beer, and cigars instead of steroids

Jake – Attorney-At-Law, Football Lover, Gentleman. If James Bond were “Fratty,” this is how he would be embodied.

Ryan – My former roommate, and a superstar DJ. The Rain Man of Beer full of Subtle Swagger.

A Pitcher is a Single Serving, Right? P.S. This Cocktail Tastes Like Iced Coffee

Trivia: Two Mondays ago, it was National Coffee Day.

In preparation for this momentous occasion, I figured I would combine the taste of two favorites: coffee and alcohol.

Trivia: 57% of coffee drinkers add some sort of sweetener to their drink.
I am not one of those people. I like my coffee beverages the way I like my soul, my men, my women and my humor. Don’t analyze that sentence with the stereotypical ending, either. Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, suffice to say I understand the desire of most female coffee (and alcohol) drinkers for something sweet.

Make that, I had bangs until age 20.

Trivia: Between 20% and 30% of coffee sales are comprised of flavored coffees (i.e. chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, and cinnamon).

This is based on a recipe torn from inside “Cosmopolitan.” I shifted things around a bit, with feedback from one of my girlfriends, who came over this weekend for a day of cocktail experimenting, pizza-dough making, and film-noir watching. (By the way, films from 1948 have amazing “Is it Good or Is It Bad?” pick-up lines, despite their lack of cultural variety.) Don’t worry, the pizza dough recipe is coming later this week.

The original magazine tear-out called for half-and-half. While shopping for ingredients, I pulled a small carton of fat-free half-and-half, because I wanted to be mindful of the figure-conscious ladies who read this blog. (Thanks for sticking around through the numerous bacon mentions, by the way. You girls rock.) My verdict? It tastes disgusting, and coated my tongue more thoroughly than heavy cream. While searching for ingredient alternatives and cross-referencing other “coffee-tasting dessert cocktails,” I noticed how many after-dinner drinks are dairy-based. Not so much fun for people like my Mother, Aunts, or the 65% of the population who identify as Lactose-Intolerant. Raise your hand if you order your Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Peets, or anything in-between/indie with almond milk, since soy milk has the major-estrogen-it’s-actually-bad-for-you-if-you-drink-it-every-day thing going on. That’s what I thought.

Using almond milk turned out to be a phenomenal solution. Counter-intuitively, it mellows out the sweetness from the Kahlua. Add one of those hyper-feminine flavored rims, and your adult quasi-iced coffee/quasi-chocolate milk is served.

Iced Coffee Cocktail (for one, double the proportions for two if you’ve already had one on an empty stomach)

  • 1 shot Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey Whiskey
  • 1 shot Kahlua
  • 2 shots Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • Honey (optional)
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (optional)
  • Graham Cracker Crumbs (optional)
  • Ice

If you’re going for presentation (and flavor) points and making the graham cracker/chocolate rim, use the tip of your finger to spread honey around the rim of whatever glasses you’ll be serving this drink in. Once the rim is suitably sticky (and you’ve made several inappropriate jokes about this), pour equal parts cocoa powder and graham cracker crumbs onto a paper plate, turn the serving glass upside down, and rub the glass around and about on the plate to coat the rim with deliciousness. (Make more sexual jokes during and after this part.)

Place ice in both the cocktail shaker. (If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, improvise with some sort of mason jar type deal. If you’ve gotten as far as buying the ingredients, there’s no going back now.)

Shake the whiskey, Kahlua, and almond milk over ice, and strain into the serving glass.

coffee drink




So Obvious, It Should Have Slapped Me In The Face: This week, I Simplified.

“The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity.”          -Douglas Horton

I’ve been rediscovering my love of the farmers market. Once upon a time, when I was in the midst of looking for a job and would get random, glorious weekdays off, I would attempt to orient those days around one of the many farmers markets dotting the Los Angeles cityscape. I eventually stopped going, because “life happened.” (See below for details.)

Working a classic 9:00 -5:00 is exhausting, but the one thing I can’t fault about my new position is the consistency. I know exactly when and where I’m available. Per always, it’s not often – that hasn’t changed much since I was a teenager. When I call my parents, it’s usually from the car, and one of their first questions when they pick up the phone is, “So where are you driving to now?”

If it’s a Saturday morning, I am headed to the farmers market. It is the one place I go without a shopping list. I don’t even take one of my notebooks with me. When I go to the farmers market, it is to get out of my own head and into my visceral instincts as an eater: What looks good? What sounds good? It allows me to cook both in and of the moment. Try it.

The summer growing season still seems to be at a peak, though fall is attempting to work its way in edgewise. Saying goodbye to perfect tomatoes, corn, and stone fruit makes me shudder slightly, but as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” (Also, to the dudes selling pomegranates this early last Saturday, thanks for simultaneously getting me excited and killing my soul. I wasn’t quite ready for life to start all over just yet.) The farmers market forces me to simplify, and it’s not only because I going in with a limited amount of cash and no shopping list.

I know the concept is difficult to grasp sometimes. I am definitely guilty (as we all are) of over-thinking and over-complicating things. My goal this week is to streamline my ingredient lists and simplify what my palate is experiencing. It started with the photo below:

Indigo Rose Tomatoes, Burrata (which I would still love to figure out how to make), Membrillo, Olive Oil, Fig Balsamic, and Salt

035 (1)

Subtract the obvious. Add the meaningful.

“Excuse me, dude….are you Chuck Bass?”: A Morning Wine Tasting at Duckhorn Vineyards

Duckhorn became one of my favorite vineyards shortly after graduating from UCLA, when I was gifted a bottle from an extremely generous friend. The Duckhorn company encompasses five different wine programs: Duckhorn itself, Paraduxx, Goldeneye, Migration, and Decoy. Decoy is the most widely distributed, Paraduxx only does red blends, and so on and so forth.

I despise being one of those people who comes back from vacation full of gloat about the perfect weather….but I had no complaints. It was 76 degrees and sunny with a breeze.

Real talk.

All wine programs under the Duckhorn umbrella provide tasters with take-home notecards about the wines they’ve tried. Before you claim this is done all the time – it’s not. Trust me, I’ve been around the block and down the street. Wine programs providing this level of detail to people coming in are indicating their trust in your palate. I’m a huge fan of wine programs that allow tasters to come to their own conclusions.

After checking in for our tour, we were poured Duckhorn Napa Valley 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, which I’ve had in LA. I’m a fan of Sauv Blancs from California, because I’m usually not partial to tasting grass, cucumber, and jalapeno in my wine, the way I can with varietals from New Zealand. Call me a California girl, but I love citrus flavors in my white wines. This one started smooth, finished with acid, and tasted like a combination of grapefruit with crystallized ginger cutting through it.

Notes from the Winemaker Card:

-Duckhorn has been crafting Sauvignon Blanc since 1982

-Varietal Composition – 83% Sauvignon Blanc, 17% Semillon

-100% French Oak – 15% barrel-fermented in new oak

“This is a classic expression of our Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc with aromas of grapefruit, lemon curd and nectarine, as well as rich, underlying notes of vanilla and homemade marshmallow. A smooth-textured entry gives way to tingling acidity that shows off the citrus elements beautifully, while adding length to flavors of cantaloupe, Asian pear and Fuji apple.”

Props to our tour guide Sally for being a rad human. She was articulate, well-versed in broader Napa Valley history in addition to that of the vineyard, and actively sought questions. She made sure to emphasize the diversity of Napa Valley soil, climate, methodology, etc. It was the type of tour that encourages visitors to actually learn something, rather than passively nodding and waiting for free wine. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

There was only one other couple on our tour who were about our age, and they were pretty….snooty….from the beginning. We’ll start and end with the guy ending every sentence with mention of his trust fund and promising to buy multiple cases of wine. If only he’d had Ed Westwick’s “Gossip Girl” demeanor and looks. By the time we headed back to the tasting room for our five flight wine-and-cheese pairing, Chuck Bass, Jr.  was commenting on the personal appearance of everyone in the group, and attempting to answer questions by himself.

Damn that mother-Chucker.

Feeling like adults in our private tasting room. Was trying to sneak a shot of Chuck Bass Jr.’s blazer and *ascot*, but realized I should be soaking up the experience and acting mature.

One of the wines we chose to take back to L.A. with us was the Duckhorn 2010 Merlot from Three Palms Vineyard in Napa Valley (paired with manchego cheese from Spain for the tasting). The flavor profiles were extremely familiar to me, since Spanish food is one of my favorite things. This wine was beautiful – lush and subtly spicy. (I like my wines with a little sass.)

The Three Palms Vineyard is rocky, which means the soil drains well and the vine roots are able to spread and draw out nutrients deep within the earth. The stones also serve to protect the vines from the warm and cool temperatures of day/night.

Winemaker Notecard:

-Varietal Composition – 82% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. (By the way, if anyone can tell me as much about Cab Franc, it’s my newest wine-snob obsession. I want to know everything about it.

-100% French Oak, 18 months in the barrel

“Filled with lush red and black fruit and classic early undertones, this is a rich and weighty expression of Three Palms Vineyard, bursting with flavor and structure. The aromas are warm and inviting, highlighting dark cherry, plum, cocoa and sweet Asian spices. The palate is equally layered and expressive with pure, intense notes of ripe plum, currant, candied cherry, mocha and red licorice.”

Has anyone else noticed how extremely over-the-top wine and art jargon is? Lovely. But a bit much occasionally. Quite a fine line.

The fourth wine we tasted was where time stood still and I had to do double and triple-takes toward my wine glass like a crazy person. It’s one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. It’s going to be my new favorite red in my personal collection. ….And it’s not available for public sale. Typical. One trip to a winery and I morph into a “members only” loon. I’m sorry! It was so delicious!

Duckhorn Vineyards 2006 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. [!!!!!!]

Howell Mountain is my new obsession. I’ve developed a huge affinity for the way wine from Howell Mountain tastes after this trip.

Howell Mountain isn’t in the main part of Napa, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, or  the Russian River Valley. It’s located at the top of a mountain (duh, look at the name), above a fog bank. It’s the Kona Coffee of California red wines. If you don’t understand that analogy, do some googling. Howell Mountain is only about 100 acres worth of land, and Duckhorn has about 60 of them. It sounds big, but it’s small enough where only about 150 cases of this wine were made….ever.


Winemaker Notecard:

-Varietal Composition – 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot

“As the debut vintage of our Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine was blended to showcase the structure and complexity of Cabernet Sauvignon from this storied winegrowing region. Crafted around a core of older vine fruit from our Stout Vineyard, there is an unmistakable wildness to this wine with wild berry layers supported by earthy undertones, fresh herb layers of mint, eucalyptus and sage, and an oak-inspired note of coconut macaroon. A study in power and restraint, this mountain-grown wine is broad and lush on the palate with a big, yet elegant, finish.

I mean, even the description is awesome. Bonus points to the vineyard for provocative jargon. This wine was luxurious. I was ready to recline in some sort of velvety boudoir or library in a black silk bathrobe while listening to a string quartet on the veranda of my balcony, with double doors thrown open to the breeze. 

So good, it made me have an overly-feminine fantasy.

The final wine in our flight was one of the best the vineyard has to offer. The price tag was three digits, i.e. something I can only wildly dream about being able to purchase at this point in my life. Being able to taste it was an honor and only moderately surreal. My favorite was still the previous one described, but this one made Mr. Right’s taste buds go wild.

Duckhorn Vineyards 2009 Estate Grown “The Discussion”

Winemaker Notecard:

-Varietal Composition – 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot

-100% French Oak, aged 26 months in the barrel

The Discussion was blended using the very best barrels of wine from the finest blocks of our estate vineyards. While the wine is abundantly rich and flavorful, it is defined by its refinement and complexity. Aromas of mulberry, plum, leather, cassis and cocoa offer a beautiful prelude to a rich, velvetymouth feel with fine-grained tannins.”

Have you seen the “How I Met Your Mother” episode with the tannins joke? Can’t read a wine label without laughing. Very bad form.

This wine was so complex, my palate didn’t know what to do. Was I tasting red fruit? Black fruit? Was it something floral? Or something spicy? Mr. Right is better at these sorts of things because he and Awesome Roommate brew their own beer, so they’re used to smelling and tasting the layers of flavor that come from the raw materials/ingredients, fermentation process, aging, pouring style, year, etc.

I learned so much on this trip to the Napa Valley and want to share as much of it as I can with you. Please don’t hesitate to send me a message with any questions about Napa Valley recommendations, wines I like, and so forth. Maybe life in general? It doesn’t matter to me. Anything I can’t answer will be directed to a couple of sommeliers I know in that area who have graciously agreed to answer your brain-picks.


Duckhorn, I’ll be back soon. Until then, I’m glad we decided to split the cost of your wine club.