Pâté de campagne

On the occasions that I can get out to the local wineries, there is nothing better than bringing along a light lunch of a few cheese, some olives, pickles, and your own pâté. It is surprisingly simple to make and is well suited for a quick bite on the go. I am fortunate to have a local friend who raises hogs on the side. When it is slaughter time, I ask that she please save me the liver especially for this delicious dish.

For a more professional outcome, try to locate some “Morton’s Tender Quick” to use with this recipe. Alternatively, Kosher salt will work.


Mom’s rosy pickled eggs

I love pickled and briny stuff. This recipe may be the reason why. My mom has been making these for years and I truly enjoy them. The pickling liquid imparts a great flavor and the beets make for some curious coloring. Growing up, it was always difficult to explain to friends how these eggs could be good. As an adult, I have learned that they go great with beer and other drinks. You just have to try them! You need a one gallon container with a lid, preferably glass for this recipe. You’ll also need a ton of eggs, but they keep a long time in the briny vinegar.

Boeuf à la Bourguignonne

Boeuf à la Bourguignonne, Beef Bourguignon, beef burgundy, or just beef in wine sauce. For me, few dishes invoke thoughts of cool weather, friends and hearty meals like beef Bourguignon. Many credit Julia Child with bringing this dish to the forefront. As a result, Americans often envision this dish when they think of French cuisine. Several years ago, Jill and I had the opportunity to travel to France. Beginning in Paris, then on to Champagne, we further travelled South to Burgundy. We visited several chateaus and wineries in the famous region. Burgundy wines are highly regarded in the world of wine. With well known regions such as Chablis, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais, and Beaujolais, the wines are very high quality and can be quite expensive. It is not unusual for some Burgundies to sell for hundreds of dollars per bottle. The primary red grape of Burgundy is the very well respected and not very forgiving Pinot Noir. One night, after a tough day of site seeing and winery hopping, we went to a Burgundian restaurant which was well known for their Boeuf à la Bourguignonne. It didn’t disappoint! Rich wine sauce, well seasoned, tender beef, and tasty vegetables. They served it in it’s own crock with a lid, very old school and very awesome.

This is an image of Jill and I in a cellar in Chambolle-Musigny:


While I have made Beef Bourguignon using Pinot Noir (usually from California), I also like to experiment and use other red wines as well. The only basic rule of thumb is to use a wine which you would enjoy drinking. Northern California has tons of good wines, but one of my favorites is Zinfandel. In my opinion, it lends itself well to this dish. I also like to try and pair the same wine I use in making the meal to go along with it.

Below is my version of this classic stew. There are a multitude of ways to put this together and I have seen several and I enjoy them all. For mine, I do not use any stock, water or demi-glace, as I like to rely solely on the wine in combination with the beef for the rich sauce.

Chicken and Dumplings

I don’t think it would be possible for me to talk about chicken and dumplings without also talking about the Vineyard House. Also, considering that we’re in the Halloween season, I think this will be the appropriate discussion.

Growing up in the Sierra foothills I remember family trips to Coloma. Coloma is where gold was first discovered which sparked the gold rush. In the town of Coloma stands a cavernous mansion which was built in the 1870’s. The enormous house was the center of activity in Coloma for many years. The building was converted into a hotel and restaurant in the 1970’s. I have great memories of going to the restaurant with friends and family when I was younger. It was a very popular place in this area and the wait times to be seated were substantial. While waiting, the kids had a great time exploring the old grounds while parents threw back a few cocktails in the dank and scary basement which also doubled as the bar.

One of their specialities was their delicious chicken and dumplings which was in a rich chicken broth with fluffy parsley flavored dumplings.

Everything was served on mismatched dinnerware which added to the vintage ambience.

While at the dinner table, it was always fun to listen to the various accounts of the history of the property and by the end of the night, you would find yourself turning around and looking behind you as you were sure that Louisa was close behind. The story of the house and its original occupants is true and it went something like this:

The house and the grounds were a profitable winery business for several years at the turn of the century. As the story goes, Martin Allhoff, the property’s founder, and his wife Louisa, migrated from back east during the gold rush as he was determined to achieve the California dream he had heard so much about back home. Having the good sense to give up prospecting and start a wine making business was a stroke of genius. By all accounts, he made a quality product and was quite successful. However, it was short lived. Unfortunately, Martin did not do a good job of paying taxes and keeping up on the books. When the law caught up to him on a wine delivery in Virginia City, he felt that he had no future and committed suicide by cutting his own throat in an outhouse behind a building. His lifeless body was subsequently sent back to his grieving wife in Coloma and buried in the cemetery across the street from the house. Soon after, Robert Chalmers of Coloma began a relationship with Louisa and together, they continued the business. After a time, however, Robert started to show signs of mental illness and considering the lack of professional help at the time, his new wife Louisa had to make the painful decision to lock him in the old prison cell in the basement to keep him from hurting himself and others. Considering Robert’s mental condition, he began to suspect that Louisa had ulterior motives when she came to give him food and water. He believed that he was being slowly poisoned! As such, he refused to eat and painfully perished over time. Louisa passed on shortly after. Both Robert and Louisa are buried across the street from the old house in the Coloma Pioneer Cemetery. Tragically, the once admired house fell into disrepair for many years thereafter until it was later revived as a local landmark restaurant.

Sadly, the long history of trouble couldn’t be denied and even the successful restaurant fell victim and eventually closed. The Vineyard House is currently occupied by a private family which keeps very quiet. Many locals believe that the house is actually occupied by more than just the current owners of the property. It is said that the tragic events surrounding the Vineyard House have sentenced the tortured souls of Martin, Louisa, and Robert to forever wander the hallways and rooms of the grand old house in search of the California dream which was always just beyond their grasp.