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Lodi’s Food, Wine and Beer Gift Guide
Yesterday, the hubby and I spent the afternoon Christmas shopping for our almost-five-year-old son, Chase. After stopping for a celebratory drink at our favorite local spot, Towne House Restaurant and slightly exhausted (after a week of the flu ravaged our home), we staggered home to wrap presents and plan out our last few gifts.
Much to my delight, one of my favorite childhood movies, “The Sound of Music” was playing on television. So I eagerly wrapped presents with abundant joy while excitedly singing along to the ever-cheerful “My Favorite Things!” The song immediately got my wheels turning.
How many of us are still scrambling to find the perfect Christmas gifts? How many of us have friends and family that are foodies? Wine lovers? Beer aficionados? Well have no fear, the Fine Foodie Philanthropist is here, and I’ve compiled a list of all my favorite foodie finds in Lodi! The best part is you won’t have to pay for rush shipping…just head to one of the Lodi establishments from my list to pick up the perfect last minute gifts!
For Your Foodie Friends
Wood Boards from Sargent Road Company at Boxwood Finch.
This food-grade cheese board can be used for just about anything you want. If you have a friend or family member who loves to entertain, I promise you they will love this board. I have one…and the craftsmanship is meticulous on these beauties.
Olive Oil Sampler from Calivirgin
Who wouldn’t appreciate these delicious olive oils produced by the Coldani Family for Calivirgin? This is the perfect way to introduce another local foodie to some of the best flavored olive oil I have ever had. This sampler set lets folks decide which flavors they want to pick up in full size. Oh…and it includes their barrel-aged balsamic vinegar that is hands down the most used food item in my kitchen.
Cheese, Jams, Crackers and Chocolates from Cheese Central
Cheese Central has the widest selection of gourmet cheeses in our region. From the deliciously decadent Mt. Tam to my personal favorite, Old Amsterdam, there is a cheese for every flavor profile. Looking for something less perishable or to add to a basket? Pick up a jar of local Cherry Pepper Jelly, Bruno’s Peppers, Fig Jam or mustards to complement the cheese lover’s next charcuterie platter.
Lemon Curd from Cornerscone Bakery
Let’s get real for a second. This stuff is delicious. Fresh lemon curd from Lodi’s premier patisserie, Cornerscone Bakery is just what you need for the baker in your life. Sometimes it is the understated simplicity of a gift that makes it meaningful, and I can promise you that this lemon curd will satisfy the most discerning sweet tooth.
If you are looking for a handmade, delicious treat for the teacher, babysitter or neighbor, look no further than Rustic Crunch. Unlike most commercialized versions of caramel popcorn, Liz Hittle’s small batch Rustic Crunch is light as air and lives up to the Crunch in its name. Take my word for it…get some now.
For your Beer Loving Friends
Gift Sets and Growlers from Five Window Beer Co.
The guys over at Five Window Beer Co. put out some seriously good beers. They have even thrown together some holiday gift packages for those of you struggling to think of a gift for your boyfriend, Dad or bestie who prefers a hoppy beer over a glass of Champagne! You can also pick up some growlers for your Christmas dinner or wrap it up as a gift.
“Food on Tap” by Lori Rice, available on Amazon
Alright, this item isn’t available locally, but you can Amazon this amazing cookbook for the beer and kitchen connoisseur in your life. I stumbled upon author Lori Rice’s Instagram feed a while back and was inspired to purchase her latest cookbook, “Food on Tap” a few weeks ago. Rice explores cooking with Craft Beer from her perspective and I absolutely love how unique the recipes are in this cookbook. Just as wine is added to recipes, Food on Tap asserts that craft beer can elevate your culinary skills in the kitchen and make you want to explore more!
For the Wine Lover in your Life
Lodi Native Wines: Box Set of 6 Bottles at the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center
This is for the wine lover in your life. The serious, passionate, sophisticated wine lover. The natural wine movement has gained international traction, and Lodi Wine decided to try their hand at making beautiful, unadulterated Zinfandels. The wines reflect the terroir, fruit and growing season of Lodi’s most storied varietal. Kudos to m2 Wines, St. Amant, Field’s Family Wines, McCay Cellars, Maley Brothers Vineyards and Macchia Wines for producing such beauties in a bottle.
Wine Merchandise: Shirts, Hats, Wine Stoppers, Chocolate and so much more! Lodi Wine and Visitor Center
Looking for something fun, festive and wine related to give? The Lodi Wine and Visitor Center has a TON of fun and trendy wine related merchandise for the wine lover in your life. My favorite items are the t-shirts pictured below, with crazy graphic expressions for the social wino. With sayings like “When they Zag you Zin” and “Wines should be poured, not bored,” all complete with the LOCA or Lodi Wine logos. I love that we can rep the 209 wine no matter where we travel with these jewel-toned tees. They also have baseball jersey style shirts, hats, travel bags, hilarious gift bags and so much more. And…they have foodie items like chalkboard cheeseboards, olive oils and gourmet chocolates. I can’t believe how much of their merchandise is perfect for the Lodi wine lover!
And when all else fails, you can always go with the most appreciated bottle for holiday get-togethers, Champagne! Of course here in Lodi, we call it something else and these two bottles are definitely noteworthy. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to have Lodi wineries making sparkling wine in the method champenoise.
I hope these last minute suggestions make your life a little easier. Gift giving is always a challenge for me, but I would personally love to be on the receiving end of any of these items!
I will, however, leave you with one other option. For the folks in your life who are blessed, and love our community, consider giving to one of our amazing local non-profits! We have so many deserving charities in the region. Below is a link to those that are near and dear to my heart!
I hope each of you embrace the holiday spirit and enjoy this time with family, friends, fine food, wine and of course…Philanthropy!
Fine Foodie Philanthropist
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With harvest in Lodi Wine Country winding down, I finally have a some time to share some of my most recent food and wine adventures with all of you! A few weeks back I joined a few dozen foodies for an over-the-top Harvest Winemaker Dinner at Fē•nix featuring Lodi’s premier Spanish varietal producer Bokisch Vineyards.
A brisk breeze made for the perfect evening for a stroll through downtown Lodi’s brick-lined streets to my dinner destination. Upon arrival, Liz Bokisch greeted me and showed me to my seat at their table. I immediately grabbed my camera from its bag and proceeded to the hors d’oeuvres. Chef Richard Hyman had prepared Hamachi Crudo with a Yuzu Kosho and delectable Duck Confít Spring Rolls with a Thai Chili dipping sauce. The bites were matched with the 2015 Bokisch Albariño from the Terra Alta Vineyard.I eagerly grabbed one of each to taste. I tried both dishes independently with the Albariño and rolled my eyes in satisfaction. I’m a sucker for Duck Confít, so I helped myself to one more spring roll. I knew I was in for a treat and snapped a few more pictures of guests mingling!As we headed to our seats, the staff began to deliver the first course, a Suzuki Sashimi with watermelon, herb emulsion and Spanish olive oil powder. This dish was almost too pretty to eat. ALMOST. Seriously, the brininess of the fish partnered with watermelon made for the perfect bite. My favorite element of this dish was the herb emulsion. It was bright, well balanced and grassy. Chef paired the sashimi with Bokisch Vineyards 2015 Garnacha Blanca. Chef Hyman clearly knows how to marry flavors.The second plate to come out of the kitchen was life changing. Chef Hyman prepared seared Foíe Gras with a caramelized pineapple and spiced orange gel. Hyman partnered this course with the 2014 Bokisch Garnacha. I can tell you definitively…this was my favorite dish of the evening, and my favorite pairing too! The clove and spice brought out flavors I had never tasted before in Bokisch’s Garnacha.The wine was flowing when the third course came out of the kitchen. We were presented with a coffee rubbed prime filet of beef with a porcini cauliflower risotto. The tender beef was cooked to perfection, but what I really loved about this dish was the cauliflower risotto. There is something to be appreciated about a chef who can think outside of the proverbial steak and potatoes box, while delivering a delicious dish sans starch! Hyman teamed the beef with the 2014 Bokisch Tempranillo. Inky and ripe with dark berries, the Tempranillo stood up to the filet with fortitude.At this point, I’m pretty much stuffed, but I had to try the house-made pappardelle pasta with Superior Farms Lamb Sugo and finished with shaved Pecorino. The pasta was executed al denté and the lamb sugo paired well with the 2014 Bokisch Graciano. I’ve discovered that this is one of my favorite Lodi wines. Apparently I’m in good company, because rumor has it the graciano is Markus Bokisch’s favorite wine, as well. I will admit up front that I am a chocolate lover, so I was hesitant to give the dessert course a chance at fulfilling my sweet tooth. But I was so wrong! Chef turned out a perfect blueberry and strawberry shortcake with spiced Chantilly crème. I loved the generous sprinkling of sea salt on the crust of the shortcake and the crème was the perfect accompaniment to the 2015 Bokisch Tizona Late Harvest Graciano.The evening was so much fun, gathering with friends for an evening of fine food and wine! Chef Richard Hyman’s skills were on full display for this wine dinner, and I was so impressed! The food did NOT disappoint and I can’t wait to get back for another visit. I would also be remiss if I didn’t talk about Markus and Liz Bokisch! They are the most hospitable folks and they make such incredible Spanish wines in the Lodi region. Their award-winning wines have played a huge role in putting Lodi Wine on the map. If you live in Lodi or are planning a visit to Lodi Wine Country, make sure you stop into Fē•nix for fine dining with a flair in downtown Lodi.
Fine Foodie Philanthropist
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Fresno Food Expo Partners with Simon Majundar to Highlight the Valley’s Culinary Credentials
A few weeks ago I was afforded an incredible opportunity from a childhood friend. She runs the Fresno Food Expo, the largest regional food show in America, and she had big news. Author, Broadcaster, and Food Network personality, Simon Majundar, would be attending the Fresno Food Expo for the second year in a row. And even more impressive, were his plans to sit down with owners, restaurateurs and the chef’s behind the culinary gems of the Central Valley for a round table discussion.
On June 20th, these folks, an intimate crowd of thirty, gathered at the Annex Kitchen in Fresno. The goal; to serve as a catalyst in highlighting the region’s bounty of agriculture and how to build stronger food communities.
Upon arriving we were greeted by the gracious staff of the Fresno Food Expo and ushered into the rustic, industrial yet modern dining room of The Annex Kitchen. Guests mingled while tasting wine supplied by CRU Winery Company, beer samplings from Tioga Sequoia Brewing Company, beautiful platters of charcuterie courtesy of Busetto Foods and tasty olive oils from ENZO Olive Oil. I mean…talk about celebrating the foodie fabulousness of our region, right?
As the only blogger in the room, I did my best to introduce myself to many of the restaurateurs. Growing up in Fresno, many of my favorite dining establishments were present for the luncheon, including the iconic Erna’s Elderberry House and Max’s Bistro. I was also thrilled to meet the owners of Trelio and Limón Peruvian Cuisine. There was an invigorating conversation with Simon regarding my new adventure with blogging, and it was inspiring to say the least.
As the program progressed, we were shown a delicious line-up of family style plates showcasing local producers. First up was a salad of ripe local peaches, delicious burratta and pickled onions. There was also a beautiful beef tartare with arugula, parmesan and wild mushrooms. Last on the lineup were two tantalizing pizzas: a Bianca with sausage, sage and ENZO Fresno Chile pepper Olive Oil and a local favorite featuring the fresh corn from the Fresno State University Farm Store.
Chef Majundar then presented his version of the top five food trends around the world and how they are playing out regionally.
- Hyperlocal Sourcing: We live in the food capital of the world. With the most beautiful produce ever created. Folks want to know where their food is grown, or even the name of the farm…think Niman Pork or Mary’s Chicken. I personally see this playing out a lot in Lodi right now. Restaurants are using social media to identify where the produce highlighted in their dishes is coming from and adding meaningful descriptors on menus. Farmers, in turn, are highlighting which restaurants are using their product. It is a win-win for food enthusiasts!
- Food Communities: This is a very important part of the message! The restaurants, owners, chefs, farmers, wine and spirit producers, distributors…all need to band together and build a strong network. For example, on a chef’s one night off a week, he might dine out at another local restaurant and share his experience on social media, essentially giving that restaurant a third party endorsement. It might mean gathering after work once a month for Industry Insider nights where chefs can gather over a few beers and chew the fat over the challenges and opportunities they might share in common. It is SO much more than this…but I’m long-winded as it is.
- Natural Wine: Majundar spoke of the current emphasis to make natural wines and feature them in local restaurants. He recommended that restaurateurs inform guests that their wine menu features natural wines and what the term actually means. Ironically, I was aware of this trend given that here in Lodi, several wineries have launched their own version of natural wines called the Lodi Native project. It has been a huge hit!
- Rediscovering Brandy, Boutique Spirits
If you travel at all, I am guessing you have seen this trend playing out in all its glory. Most of the restaurants in San Francisco or Healdsburg, for example, are only featuring small batch, boutique distilled spirits. The focus, once again, goes back to the local, or even hyper-local emphasis in the food, wine and spirits world. The rise of Brandy is an excellent example.
- Rediscovering Table Side Presentation Does everyone remember the 80’s and 90’s fine dining scenes of servers in tuxedos making Caesar Salad table side? Well it’s back…sort of. Simon suggests that food is entertainment and that we have abandoned the theater of it all! Across the country we are seeing more and more establishments bring back the theater of dining. From shrimp grilled table side, to the classic flombe of Banana Fosters, diners are celebrating the spectacle of eating out again!
He also shared with us a few trends he doesn’t love, including the use of truffle oil, half plate presentations, a chef’s stringent rules regarding substitutions, and the popular trend of serving food on wood cutting boards or platters.
On a side note, I would like to commend Mr. Majundar for his incredibly welcoming demeanor and enthusiasm for conversing with the guests. For me, the greatest part was his genuine affection for the Central Valley, a region that often undermines its own incredible culinary value.
Kudos to the Fresno Food Expo for bringing together the Valley’s food community, to Simon Majundar for championing our cause, and to the restaurateurs who were able to attend. And also a HUGE thank you to the Annex Kitchen and the Pardini Family for hosting this fabulous event! May the valley I was born in, and the region that I live in, find its place to the top of the world’s food destinations as it deserves!
The event that inspires all of this awesomeness is the Fresno Food Expo! The Fresno Food Expo will be held on Wednesday, July 26th and Thursday, July 27, 2017, for tickets and information, please click here! Simon Majundar will be back on Thursday for Expolicious, so do not miss this opportunity to explore the amazing foodie finds of our region, connect with local producers and sample some of the best dishes in the Central Valley.
Fresno Food Expo: The Fresno Food Expo provides a platform that increases the commerce and connectivity of Central California food and beverage related companies, while creating a regional identity centered on the celebration of food production and the experience food inspires.
Fine Foodie Philanthropist
Two weeks ago I had an opportunity to spend a few hours in the kitchen with a world renowned chef right here in Lodi, CA. Over these past couple of weeks I have reflected on what it meant to me and my future with this […]