My version of Orecchiette with Oven-Roasted Cauliflower

If you've been reading this blog then you know we just returned home from possibly the best trip to the California wine country ever.  One of the best stops on this memorable trip was at Seghesio winery for their Family Table food and wine pairing.

We were lucky enough to be the only people signed up for the Family Table that evening.  Did they cancel on us?  No, Chef Peter Janiak created amazing food for little old Dave and I!


Chef Janiak made me pork belly and I ate it.  And I liked it!  You can check that out HERE.

This blog is dedicated to a recipe Chef Janiak posted on Facebook that I tried tonight.  He posted that this was something he made when he was "short on time."  I'm always short on time!  Tonight was no exception.  I got home a little late from work, walked the dogs, showered, ran out to do a "quick" errand that I knew I wouldn't have time for tomorrow then started dinner.

The ingredients:
2 cups of milk (heated but not scalded)
3 Tablespoons of Butter
2 Tablespoons of AP Flour
¼ teaspoon of Nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 cup of grated Gruyere
½ cup of grated Parmesan Reggiano
8 ounces of Orechiette
4 cups of Cauliflower florets cut to the size of the pasta
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon of chopped fresh Oregano
1.5 teaspoons of Aleppo chili flake and a couple pinches for garnish

How can you possibly go wrong with those ingredients?  I had some butternut squash in the house so I added that!


I love, love, love Gruyere cheese.  This one is my favorite!


The sauce starts with browned butter.  There are few things that smell better, or taste better for that matter, than browned butter!  I love the nutty flavor, especially when it's poured over my homemade squash ravioli with some crisped sage.  But that's another blog...

You brown the butter then add flour to make a roux.  Different from a normal roux, Chef Janiak browns both the butter and the flour.  Isn't this beautiful?


Once this is good and golden brown you add a little nutmeg and bay leaf.  I wasn't expecting an explosion in the pan at this point.  I'm not sure if it was the leaf or the nutmeg but watch for some sizzle!

Warmed milk is added to the rough to make the base for the sauce.  Chef Janiak's direction said to cook this until the "raw flour" flavor went away.  So I tasted it right away and yes, there was a bit of a raw flour flavor.  After about 15 minutes that went away!  Amazing!

The cheese is then added.



Chef Janiak says to toss the cauliflower with olive oil, oregano and aleppo pepper flakes then broil it until slightly golden brown.  Well, I modified this a bit.  I added the squash and I didn't have aleppo pepper (well I know I do but I couldn't find it) so I used chipotle.  Instead of broiling the veggies I roasted them.  Are these beautiful or what?


I didn't have any Orecchiette but I did have this fabulous pasta so I used that.


I did have to add a little pasta water to my sauce and if someone hadn't forgotten to bring bread home so he had to go back out and buy it just when dinner was ready, the sauce would have been perfect!  I tasted it, it was perfect!   By the time I plated and pictured it had thickened up again but it was still delicious!


It was supposed to be served in "pasta bowls."  I don't own pasta bowls.  I have soup bowls so that's what we used.  Do you think this tastes different depending on the bowl from which you eat it, kind of like how wine tastes different based on the glass from which you drink it?


Bottom line I loved it.  The sauce was divine with nuttiness from the roux and the Parmesan reggiano, a little sweet from the squash, smoky with just a hint of heat from the chipotle, oh my thank god there's some left for lunch tomorrow!

Follow Chef Peter Janiak on Facebook so you too can get some of these amazing recipes!

Epilog

We're home now.  Vacation is over.  It's 20 degrees outside, not 70.  Sigh.

We left the wine country kicking and screaming.  Rather than head right to San Francisco from the hotel we decided we had to get a couple bottles of cuvee, one from Kunde and one from Valley of the Moon.  The Valley of the Moon Cuvee de la Luna had been our favorite.  Then, while at Kunde earlier in the week we tasted their Dunfillin Cuvee and thought we might just like it better!  It was late when we left Kunde so the plan was go to back and get a bottle.  The Cuvee de la Luna used to be around $18 on sale.  Since Valley of the Moon was sold by Korbel, the price has skyrocketed to $45!  The Kunde Dunfillin Cuvee is $35.  We're going to have a Cuvee showdown!  I've even started planning the menu!



We stopped to peer in the windows of Jo's bar from Bottle Shock while we waited for the wineries to open. 

Then we were on our way to San Francisco!  In typical San Francisco fashion, there was fog.  It was pretty cool heading over the bridge.





The hotel, a Radisson, was very nice.  We were on the top floor, we got a robe and slippers and chocolate!  And if we really wanted to we could have shined our shoes!  And the best part, we got the room with points so it was free!




We had tickets to the night time Alcatraz tour but other than that the day was ours. On the way I did some research on parking and made the executive decision that we would return the rental car on the way down, shuttle to the airport and take a cab to the pier. I didn't read anything good about the parking situation near the piers. Turns out it was the right decision. The cab raced us through traffic!

Pier 39 is a total tourist trap but we decided to embrace it!  We had about an hour before we had to pick up our tickets for the cruise and about two hours before the cruise itself.


We walked up and down the pier before picking a place for lunch.  There was a Bischoff shop.  If you've flown lately you've probably had these yummy cookies (not on Sun Country though!).  We get them on the 3-Day too!


We stopped to listen to the sea lions for a bit.  That noise gets old!


We decided to eat at the Pier Market.  I had a crab cake sandwich which was pretty much a crab sandwich!  I couldn't finish it.  Dave had a salmon "burger" which was really a nice piece of salmon grilled and placed on a bun.  Both were good!



They had the heaters going full blast and it was totally unnecessary.  It was in the 60's!


We picked up our tickets and wandered a round a bit more then it was time for the cruise!  They had a lot of pictures and displays out on the pier from which the boat left.  This picture reminded me of my mother's family for some reason...


Out on the water it was cold and windy and you could just barely see the Golden Gate Bridge through the heavy fog.  I had straightened my hair that morning.  By the end of the evening it was curly again!

Everyone told us the nighttime tour was spooky, scary, creepy.  I didn't really think so, even with the fog.  It was interesting but I didn't think it was particularly spooky.  I guess the ghosts had better things to do.  Here are a few pictures.

We could jusst see the tips of the Golden Gate over the fog.
Heading to The Rock
 


FOG!
 

The Exercise Yard
The Library

The Excape Route
While we were waiting to board the boat back to SF I saw this little guy! 


We had every intention of walking to Little Italy for dinner.  We were told it was only a mile or so away.  But by the time we got off the cruise we were really not in the mood to walk through the misty streets so we hired this fine gentleman to take us up the hill!  It was great!  I can't imagine what kind of shape he is in.  At a couple of intersections I really wished I hadn't eaten so much the week before!


Little Italy was great. 



Everyone was speaking Italian and there were tons of restaurants.  The Stinking Rose, a garlic restaurant had been recommended.  Both people had warned us it would be a lot of garlic.  So we opted for Panta REI Cafe Restaurant.

Our waiter, Lucas was great.  He flipped fluently back and forth from Englis (no accent) to Italian.  He suggested the burrata bruschetta as an appetizer.  It was delicious!  The artichokes were nicely marinated and very tender and the buratta was very creamy and had great mozzarella flavor.

 
 
For dinner we had a trio of pastas, bowties with "pink" sauce, chicken ravioli in white sauce and gnocchi in red sauce. The chicken ravioli was by far my favorite. The gnocchi was good but after having it at Cafe Citi, well, Cafe Citi one that round. I couldn't really figure out the pink sauce so that came in third. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't fabulous.
And, of course, we had wine!
 

We asked Lucas about how to get a cab during dinner.  He said you just had to wave one down and they would stop.  Well, as we were exiting the restaurant he had already flagged one for us!

We hopped in and went for the ride of our lives!  Talk about crazy Italian taxi driver!  I clenched the door handle the entire ride back to the hotel but we made it back safe and sound and for $10 less than the trip to the wharf cost!

We were up early the next morning for the flight home.  It was very foggy, very foggy!  I knew I wasn't going to want to cook dinner when we got home but I knew we would be hungry having not had anything since breakfast (we don't pay for bad airline food).  They were selling loaves of sourdough bread in the airport so I bought a loaf.  I knew I had bolognese in the freezer and pasta is easy!
 
The fog delayed us about an hour but we had an uneventful flight home after that.

When we got home Dave went to relieve the dog sitter of the dogs while I unpacked, started laundry and started dinner.  Yippee, all the wine made it!


I have to say that this was the best trip out there yet.  We met amazing people, had fabulous food and even better wine and we relaxed.  We so need to win the lottery so we can move out there!

What did we learn?  Fly in to Sacramento not San Francisco.  The Sacramento airport is just easier and there's far less traffic!  Skip Sun Country and go back to either Delta (not significantly better but they can load a plane in under 45 minutes) or better Frontier (but then you play the "what's the weather in Denver" game).  And finally I love my new ThirtyOne make up bag!

We have a line on cheaper accommodations next year and it was suggested that we go earlier in November so that we can attend the Napa Valley Food and Wine Experience.  We may just have to do that!

And now... back to reality...

2012 Wine Country Trip - Day 5 Already?

I can't believe today was our last day here in the wine country.  We've had an amazing time, met some incredible people, eaten great food and even better wine.  Today was no exception to the rest of the trip.

I was looking forward to this morning's breakfast since I made the reservation weeks ago.  Today we had breakfast at Worth Our Weight (WOW) in Santa Rosa.  WOW gives people in their teens and early twenties, who have faced major challenges in their lives, including foster care, difficulties with the law, homelessness, and significant family disruption, a place to work and learn.  They receive tuition-free culinary and food service training.  They learn about sustainable farming, professional cooking, and have access to high-quality food prepared by chefs and food service professionals all under the leadership of Executive Director Evelyn Cheatham.  Dave and I try to eat here each time we visit this area.  I really wanted to come this time since seeing Evelyn Cheatham on Chopped!


Breakfast starts with a sampling of sweets and fruit.  The breads this time were a cranberry scone, mini cinnamon roll and a bread pudding.



We had a hard time deciding what to have for breakfast.  I decided on polenta with chicken apple sausage and Dave had a waffle.  Both were excellent!  My polenta was crispy on the outside, creamy in the middle and had great corn flavor.



After breakfast we were served a few little sweets, a homemade biscotti, a chocolate cookie and white chocolate with dried cranberries.  The biscotti was my favorite!


There are no prices on the menu at WOW.  You pay what you think the food and service is worth.

While we were eating I noticed Evelyn was there.  After we were done eating I asked the greater if Eveyln would be willing to come out for a picture.  She was!  She is so sweet!  She does amazing work at WOW and chatted with us even during the busy Saturday morning service.


She told us that her visit to the Chopped kitchen was a process that took over two years!  The producers came out to visit and interview her several times before she was on the show.  We also learned that the producers mess with the contestants in the first round.  She said you can't find anything in the kitchen.  They play tricks on you and if you make it through the first round you learn the tricks so things get easier.  Unfortunately she was "chopped" in the first round.  She was ok with that though.  She said she just wanted to get out of there!  And she got great exposure for Worth Our Weight so it was all worth it in the end.

After breakfast we shipped out some wine that had been collecting in our room.  We were going to try checking it on the plane but that would have been an extra bag charge and we would have to haul it all over so we just shipped it from the hotel!

Then it was off to Amista in Healdsburg.  The sister-in-law of a very good friend of mine worked in the tasting room and offered to give us a private tasting.  Who could say no to that?


Check out the special greeting in the tasting room!


Cindy let us not only taste each variety, but several years of some of the wines.  They were all very good but Dave and I really liked the Rock Pile Cabernet so that went home with us!


I have to point out that this is the only winery we've been to (and we've been to a few, and I check at all of them) that has purse hooks in the tasting room!


We also met this sweet puppy!  Her name was Shasha (I have no idea how to spell it but it was pronounced shay-shay).  She was so sweet.  If only Cabby would be so calm!



Thanks to Cindy for a great tasting!


Before we left Cindy suggested we go to Raymond Burr "just up the road."  Raymond Burr was just up the very windy, very narrow (one car width in places), bicyclist filled road.  It was a beautiful drive and more than once we wondered if we had passed it!

Walking into the tasting room was like walking into the past.  It was tiny, and felt like an old trailer.  It was filled with Raymond Burr memorabilia, including his awards!






This little kitty was so cute!  She really liked us.  I'm not sure why cats love me so much when I am so terribly allergic to them.  I had a hard time not petting this one!




The grounds, like just about everywhere here were beautiful.



Cindy thought we might like the cabernet franc at Raymond Burr but it was the plain old cabernet that we loved.

By now it was after 3pm and we were getting hungry.  We asked for suggestions in the Raymond Burr tasting room and decided that The Wurst Restaurant in Healdsburg sounded good.

They had a "Greenbay Brat" which was spelled just like that, one word, and a Sheboygan brat which they actually pronounced correctly!  I wonder if one of the owners was from Wisconsin?




I couldn't pass up the Greenbay Brat.  Dave had a burger.  Both were delicious no matter how they were spelled.



We spent some time wandering around the Healdsburg square then stopped at Seghesio for a split of zinfandel for this evening.

Back at the hotel we got packed up and ready to head to San Francisco for the day tomorrow.  We relaxed and watched a couple of movies.  A nice ending to a great week.

Tomorrow... Alcatraz!

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