d’yquem is a peach

2 years ago, my friends the Alexander-Mitchells served up my first taste of Chateau d’Yquem. It was a revelation. Crack cocaine in a bottle is how I think Andrew described it. Addictive, exquisite, utterly decadent. We drank it with dessert, of course, the dessert being grilled peaches served with an amaretto mascarpone cheese. We’ll get to that later.

I am not (was not) a fan of “dessert wines.” To my heretofore unsophisticated palate, these wines tasted somewhere between cough syrup and peach schnapps (which made me wildly sick my freshman year of college and has never, ever crossed my lips again.)

But the Alexander-Mitchells, well, they know a thing or two about a thing or two. And for this particular gathering, we had come together to drink 26 bottles of 1970 vintage Bordeaux over two nights. This isn’t as irresponsible as it might seem. To begin with, there were seven of us. Some of the bottles were undrinkable, others you really could only stomach a sip or two. And we generally started eating and drinking at around 5, and kept going well into the night, finishing the first night with some Graham’s 1970 vintage port and the second with a rather robust amount of scotch.


Handmade tasting cards next to the empty bottle of d’Yquem.

Our victims.

Some of the wines had turned into vinegar, and were ceremoniously dumped down the drain. Others bloomed in the glass, tasting like — one suspects — their youthful selves, but with more gravity. Others revealed themselves quickly, only to become ghostly and wispy, dying as we drank them. And some were the vinous equivalent of sitting with an aged aristocrat. Good breeding with an air of exhausted refinement.  A skeleton in a smoking jacket.

But the Chateau d’Yquem. I was dubious. A disbeliever. Until Andrew set a glass in front of me. And my husband delivered a charming grilled peach with amaretto marscapone.

Everything I had experienced from a culinary perspective prior to this simple little dessert + wine pairing faded into the background. The d’Yquem, unlike the other Bordeaux wines we were drinking tasted utterly….drinkable. No contortions, no wispiness, no fleshy fruit lost, leaving just an acid spine in the glass. Instead, here was a confident, healthy wine. Elegant, relaxed. And with the peaches, it was maybe the best gastronomical combination to have passed my lips. All seven of us became silent…just sighing every once in a while, and a little too energetically to demonstrate our pleasure.


We had a second bottle the next night, where the charming wine —again— raced effortlessly to the head of the Bordeaux pack. The honeyed encore: nutty, rich, luxurious…luscious. It was obscenely luscious. 

I haven’t had d’Yquem since that weekend. But as the summer begins to make itself known, I think about peaches. And whenever I think about sweet, unctuous peaches, I think about my voluptuous d’Yquem.

Denis Kelly’s Grilled Peaches with Amaretto Mascarpone

In the absence of Chateau d’Yquem, serve the peaches with a Gewürztraminer.

1/4 c. mascarpone cheese
2 TBSP packed brown sugar
2 tsp amaretto
4 peaches, peeled, halved and pitted
1/2 c. brown sugar

4 amaretti Italian cookies, crushed
1/2 basket raspberries

Mix the mascarpone, brown sugar and amaretto to make the amaretto mascarpone

Prepare grill (clean well and rub with oil)

Dip the cut side of the peaches into 1/2 c. brown sugar. Grill cut side down for 2 minutes, covered. Flip and grill for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Top each peach with a dollop of mascarpone mixture in the hole where the pit was. Sprinkle with crushed cookies and garnish with raspberries.

the good life — no.5

I really admire Sarah Maine. She isn’t just brainy (she went to Wesleyan and then went on to earn a MBA that focused on sustainbility) but she’s a food lover, community builder and she lives what she believes. For starters, she’s a cheesemonger. Could there be a better job title anywhere? Methinks not! On top of that bit of awesomeness, she has a small Etsy concern, The Finest Kind, where Sarah, a talented metalsmith, sells — among other things — absinthe spoons. Yes. Absinthe spoons. And they are lovingly crafted. And that’s when she’s not acting as the force behind the playful food site, Recipe Relay. In short, she’s the bee’s knees.

Without further ado, Sarah’s ruminations on the good life.

Sarah Maine

Sarah Maine

The good life, what is that?  Everyone can agree that the love of friends and family, a comfortable shelter and a full belly are essential ingredients for a good life.  I would argue further that goodness lies in how each of us arranges and connects those elements.  The web we make of thoughts, deeds, words and objects that carries the unique impression of our hand.

My childhood was draped across Southeast Asia, looping around Indonesia, then up to Sri Lanka before traversing oceans and continents to land in Italy, and finally in the US.  I saw many different ways of living, of permuting the elements of people, places and things.  The result is an internal web that is far reaching and not always orderly; the warmth of beauty is snarled with cold longing; happy strings may be kinked with sadness.  Every twist and knot has been worked into being by myself and others, places and things.  My very own hand made life.

Sarah's hand-crafted Christmas ornaments

Sarah’s hand-crafted Christmas ornaments

Absinthe spoone

Absinthe spoon

I currently live in New York City, a super-organism that can seem specifically evolved to spoil your day, your week, your year, or even your life.  In this city, things that make life good can act as amulets, cushioning against rough edges.  Space is precious; light is coveted; beauty and practicality are the mismatched roommates of most New York apartments.  Fashioning a good life here requires an openness and a readiness to relate to people on a level beyond words and interactions, it is necessary to listen to the story of things.

When something new enters my life, I look for a message of care, that warm sticky fact of connection that tells me something of the intentions of the originator or maker.  Conversely, when I do things or make things I hope to tell my own story of beauty and energy and thoughtfulness through design.

Some of Sarah’s images from Instagram:


Stolen mother/daughter moment captured by Sarah

Stolen mother/daughter moment captured by Sarah

Sarah’s beloved cat.

Interview with: Marissa Guggiana



There aren’t that many women in the butchery business. At least, there weren’t. Marissa Guggiana comes from a food family, and has proceeded to become a leading advocate in farm-to-table eating, and a co-founder of the Butcher’s Guild.  I spent some time with Marissa recently and wanted to share some of her thoughts on food, eating and community. And, give Marissa a little love for her upcoming nuptials…congratulations, Marissa!

Your first book, Primal Cuts, is about butchers and meat. Talk a little about how you became involved in that particular community:

Well, it’s the age old tale: my father bought a meat plant. I was/am a playwright and had been living in New York but I stayed in Sonoma County to help out my dad with his new venture. I ended up running the place. And since I can’t leave well enough alone, I changed the entire business model to a local, whole animal focus, which introduced me to an amazing community of people trying to build better food systems.

Primal Cuts

Primal Cuts: Cooking With America’s Best Butchers

You’ve recently released a book, Off the Menu, about the meals that the people in the kitchen of restaurants make for themselves; can you reveal some the more surprising insights? 

It’s surprising how simple it is, actually— food is love. Not in the ‘I’m eating an entire ice cream cake in the bathtub because the bad feelings came’ kind of way, but in the truest sense. We nourish the ones we love; it is our job. And when we consistently sit down and eat healthy, thoughtfully-prepared meals together, we create a stronger connection. It is true for restaurant staffs, it is true for families. It isn’t always easy but it is always true.

You co-founded the Butcher’s Guild with Tia Harrison…can you explain that organization’s mission and what you’re doing now?

After several years of running the meat business, I had the opportunity to write Primal Cutsand I traveled for months meeting butchers that had gone through the same insane, glorious learning curve that I had. I felt like my community got so much richer and I created The Butcher’s Guild with Tia Harrison (herself a talented butcher and chef) to concretize and develop these relationships.


Members of the Butcher’s Guild

A Butcher’s Guild member at the Oakland 2012 Eat Real Festival

Respect the butcher: At the Oakland 2012 Eat Real Festival

Butchers have the ability to support local farms and to educate consumers about their food choices (also, any good butcher is also a great advisor on cooking. Don’t be afraid to ask for preparation advice). We want to support these important advocates. We also want their businesses to succeed because it is a tough industry. We also want to spend as much time as possible drinking beer with butchers.  (interviewer’s note: hear! hear! and check out their pro tools store! I think I need this rosewood cutlery. Today.)

 You live in the Bay Area; can you share some of your top picks for dining out here?

This is like asking what my favorite orgasm was! There are so many amazing restaurants in the Bay Area and new ones all the time. I favor farm-to-table restaurants, places that buy from growers that I know and love. I am a devotee of Camino and Pizzaiolo in Oakland and my partner Tia’s restaurant Sociale in San Francisco (in fact, I am getting married there in a few weeks). In the city I also love Flour + Water, Namu, Delfina, 4505 Meats at the Ferry Building Farmers Market…oh, man, now I’m hungry.



Tia Harrison’s Sociale in San Francisco


I’ve been reading Richard Olney’s book, Romanée-Conti: The World’s Most Fabled Wine (itself a somewhat fabled book.) Olney is the dean of simple (and fabulously complex) French food, and still this book has been in and out of print for years and all but unobtainable. (I seized – really seized – my copy at a marvelously charming San Francisco bookstore devoted to all things food and wine, Omnivore Books.)

Olney’s last chapter title poses a curious problem: The Rarest Wine in the World has No Price. As Olney explains, bottles of Romanée-Conti are not available for individual sale through the Domaine. Instead they are distributed to wine sellers – négociants really – within a larger purchase of other Domaine wines like Montrachet, La Tâche, Richebourg, Romanée Saint-Vivant, Grands Echézeaux and Echézeaux. The wine is effectively rationed in this way, it’s distribution flow paced at a trickle. The system simultaneously ensures the distribution of the Domaine’s other only slightly less legendary wines. In Olney’s words: “If Romanée-Conti were not rationed, its entire production would disappear into the cellars of a handful of wealthy collectors, never to be seen in the marketplace, unless it be for purposes of speculation in the auction rooms.”

For me this story highlights a central paradox of luxury goods, that they must carry the illusion of being above commercial value – not valueless, but beyond valuation by any standard measure – while nevertheless simultaneously participating in the luxury market, remaining accessible, at least to someone, somewhere, in some manner. They must suggest availability, however rare they may be, and rarity, however easily they may be obtained. Setting rigid limits on the mechanisms of production and distribution offer only two means of activating this paradox. The paradox itself is what interests me, perhaps primarily as a kind of prism for looking at the things themselves – indeed all things – as alternately and utterly common and unique.

now, just the cream

I’ve been thinking about whipped cream. Its taste and texture:  rich and sweet, heavy and light. I like knowing that it is a transformed substance, a liquid that has become a solid, or semi-solid thing, just recently  before my eyes. I like that it is essentially air gathering into edible form. I like the kind of silly danger of it – the risk of over-whipping ever looming– remembering one of the first times I helped my mom whip cream and discovered that I’d gone too far and made butter. It’s a delicate operation, but also a vigorous one,  moving the cold whisk through cold cream in a cold bowl in a regular irregular rhythm.

Somewhere Jacques Pépin, I think it was, observed that a standing mixer won’t whip all of the cream in its bowl evenly because the course it follows is too regular, some of the cream will inevitably be mixed. The job is thus best done by hand, or at least finished by hand, since the hand can vary the path of the whisk and whip every last bit. Jacques also likes to joke on his shows about staying in shape: the whisk provides some kind of workout, at least enough to permit a guilt-free indulgence in the cream. Jacques uses confectioner’s sugar in his whipped cream rather than the granulated sugar that my mom used: it’s smoother, lighter on the tongue, with a more candy-like sweetness.

The whisk should be a balloon whisk which will gather more air into the cream more quickly, and the whisk, the cream and the bowl should ideally all be cold, straight from the coldest part of the refrigerator, when the whipping starts. The process involves breaking up and rearranging the molecules of fat in the cream, which first become more fluid then, after a minute or so, rather quickly less and less, as the fat forms new structures, like little walls or a honeycomb around pockets of air. If the cream is too warm the molecules of fat won’t re-adhere to one another once they’ve been broken and your arm will most likely get tired before you see the liquid begin to solidify. If possible it’s ideal to use non non-homogenized cream: the fat molecules are larger and easier to break apart, saving some time. This tip comes from food science guru Harold McGee who suggests adding a little lemon juice, an acid, to the cream to help break it up before whipping. But for me that is going a bit too far. We’re talking about whipped cream here, something so simple.

One cup of cream can be sweetened with one or two tablespoons of granulated or confectioner’s sugar, or even honey or maple syrup, for a change. It might be flavored with a dash, even as much as a teaspoon of vanilla.Spoon onto fresh blueberries or strawberries….

deadly strawberry ice cream

Fresh strawberries, buttermilk and cream cheese produces lethal — and I mean lethal — ice cream.

This one was from Jeni’s ice cream cookbook — a pretty stellar brew for the oft-ignored strawberry version of the good stuff.

Here’s how you’re going to make this calorific concoction in your own home…!

  • 1 pint strawberry
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Hull strawberries and slice. Combine strawberries with sugar in an 8″ square glass or ceramic baking dish, stirring gently to mix well. Roast for 8 minutes, or until just soft. Let cool slightly. Puree in a food processor with lemon juice. Measure 1/2 cup of the pureed berries; refrigerate the rest of the puree for another use.
  2. Mix about 2 Tbls of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  3. Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heat-proof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  4. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture in to the cream cheese until smooth.Add the buttermilk and reserved strawberry puree and blend well. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
  5. Pour the ice cream mixture into the frozen canister of electric ice cream freezer and run according to directions of ice cream maker. Pack the finished ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours. Makes about 1 quart.
  6. Serve with refrigerated strawberry puree poured over the top.

Try this as the finale after a dinner of pork on the barbeque. With a little Beaujolais.

the perfect wedding

Wedding fever has overtaken my family. My sister is getting married, and while some may say that it’s a disadvantage to be the last of 3 to get married, I’d argue that it is a great, great advantage. Having seen the foibles, the misplaced energy, the general low-grade anxiety of earlier weddings, my sister has not only selected the most stratospherically beautiful location, but she’s retained the services of a wedding planner.  Brill.

3 generations of Kanan-Corrêa ladies (plus fiancé) went up to Campovida yesterday to meet the wedding planners and begin organizing in earnest. It’s a jaw-droppingly beautiful place. Hills all around. Sustainably grown vineyards and surrounding gardens. 52 varietals of apples in the orchards. Figs, lavender, kale, swiss chard, towering cyprus. Everything well-taken care of, but not sterile. In short, as close as a girl can get to Provence without heading to St. Rémy.

But it gets better…the chef will be vegetarian wünderkind Leif Hedendal and the creative bombast of Elena Zhukova will ensure unforgettable photography. Throw in some of NYC’s most fab musicians, a few glittering food folks from the Bay Area, a sprinkling of Ph.D.s and about 30 kids…well, you’ve got the makings of either a great time, or an epic food fight.