October means Harvest

October 30, 2008 at 9:04 am (Napa Valley) (, )

One more day and October will be gone, just another month to cross off in this quickly disappearing year. 

October is my favorite month in the Napa Valley for so many reasons.  Warm days and cool nights.  Harvest parties.  The colors and smells.  And nothing is more beautiful and majestic than a big harvest moon.  If I had to describe October in the Napa Valley to someone who had never experienced it, I would say things like…

It smells like smoky bonfires, crushed leaves and fermenting grapes.
It tastes like my favorite Morrocan stew that I make at this time every year.
And its colors are butternut squash, russet and olive green.

October in the Napa Valley means harvesting the grapes.  Picking those little bunches of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and transforming them into world-class wine.  The hours are long and the work is hard, but these people love what they do and I do to because wine is definitely my beverage of choice!  But, the best part about Harvest is the Harvest party when the wineries invite family and friends to join in the celebration of their hard work with good food, music, and of course lots of wine and beer.

Lucky me, I attended such an party last night at Venge Vineyards off of the Silverado Trail just south of Calistoga – a rustically beautiful spot.  Because it is placed up on a knoll, the wrap-around porch gives great views of the surrounding vineyards. The long tables were lit by lights strung through the olive trees, and decorated with sunflowers in Mason jars.  They served carnitas and I drank lots of Venge wine – my favorite is the White Blend and Syrah. 

Afterwards, we went over to Malcom’s house for Pumpkin Carving.

The perfect October evening!

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Joanie Loves Bocce – 2cnd Annual Chili Cook-off

October 3, 2008 at 4:29 pm (Joanie Loves Bocce, Napa Valley) (, )

It finally is beginning to feel like autumn.  The light looks different.  The air has a different smell.  The Joanie Loves Bocce jacket comes out of the closet.

Last year when the weather turned colder the Joanies and Tipsy Moonshiners decided to have a chili cook-off on the night they played each other.  The theme was a huge success so it was decided that every autumn bocce season (for as long as the two teams played) there would be a chili cook-off.

This time we decided to spread the love and ask two additional teams…Boccismo and Casino Cowboys.  With the stakes so high, I decided to try something a little different…I was going to make a chili with no beans.

I found the recipe in The Culinary Institute of America’s “One Dish Meals” book and figured it had to be good…CIA recipe = WIN!

Quick note:  When adding the tomato puree I also added a can of tomatillo salsa – to give it a little more flavor.  The diced green chilis I used were not fresh, but from the Ortega can. 

A really big Chili
1/2 C canola oil
3 # pork loin, cut into small dice
2 C small-dice yellow onion
2 T minced garlic
4 C chicken broth
1/4 C tomato puree
1 C diced green chiles
2 fresh jalapenos, minced
3 T chili powder
3 T cumin
2 t ground oregano
4 c diced red skin potatoes, peeled
2 T green Tabasco
1 t white vinegar
1 C grated Monterey Jack cheese
warmed tortillas
1.  Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over high heat.  Season the pork with Salt and Pepper.  Add the pork to the hot oil, and brown – 6-8 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and save.
2.  Add the onions and garlic to the casserole and saute, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent.
3.  Add the broth, tomato puree, chiles, jalapenos, and the browned pork along with any juices it may have released.  Stir well and bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce the heat to establish a gentle simmer.
4.  Stir in chili powder, cumin, and half of the oregano.  Add the potatoes, green Tabasco, and vinegar and continue to simmer until the pork is tender about 1 1/2-2 hours.
5.  Serve with cheese and tortillas.

And no, I didn’t win the Chili Competition…but, my roomie All-Star Anne did!  But, people did seem to really like it.  Can’t win everything…that night the JLBs won all three games!

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October 2, 2008 at 12:14 pm (Napa Valley)

I still haven’t kicked this cold.  It has been a lot of sniffling and blowing.  I have been through an ocean of Kleenex.  

I’ve tried the over-the-counter pills and Zicam.  I am onto some herbal medication that contains things like Yerba Sant Root, Sage Leaf, and Elder flower – these things are supposed to stop mucas production and supply “sinus relief”.  It tastes disgusting! 

I’m giving the stuff a try until it is empty.  If it hasn’t helped by then…time for the doctor (probably should have done that in the first place).

I just need to get through this weekend.  Bocce tonight, Fiesta party on Saturday, and some good ole client entertaining on Sunday.  Monday night will be spent on the couch watching recordings of Anthony Bourdain and Gossip Girl.

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