A Farmer's Wife, who loves fine food, wine and giving back

Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Fine Foodie Philanthropist

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Recent Posts

Last Minute Gift Guide for the Lodi Food, Wine and Beer Lover

Last Minute Gift Guide for the Lodi Food, Wine and Beer Lover

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 […]

Pietro’s Remodels, Revamps and Reboots; A New Generation Takes the Helm

Pietro’s Remodels, Revamps and Reboots; A New Generation Takes the Helm

Lodi’s burgeoning wine industry tells a story of multi-generational farming families whose third and fourth generations have ascended to leadership roles. Many are now working in their family businesses and helping put Lodi wine on the map! But did you know, the same can be […]

Shakin’ it Up: a Cocktail Class with Master Mixologist Teresa Perry

Shakin’ it Up: a Cocktail Class with Master Mixologist Teresa Perry

Girl’s Night Out: Cocktails 101 at Wine and Roses

It’s time to shake things up! Seriously. You know I always love a beautiful glass of wine, but sometimes the Fine Foodie Philanthropist needs a good cocktail! And when I do, I normally end up at Towne House Restaurant, where I cozy up to the bar with master mixologist, Teresa Perry.

As the lead bartender, Perry is responsible for crafting refined, seasonal cocktails to tantalize your taste buds. She also has a vast array of local, farm-fresh produce to enhance your drinking experience!

Over the past year, Wine and Roses hosted a variety of cooking classes catered to both locals and tourists in Lodi Wine Country. When I heard they scheduled a Mixology Class led by Perry, I made my reservation and invited a friend to come along for her birthday!I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Wine and Roses definitely delivered with gourmet bites, tasty libations and fun. At each seating was a decorative box of recipes with the 8 cocktails we would learn to make. We also were set up with the fresh ingredients, bottles of booze and glassware needed to craft each drink.Perry guided us through each step in the process from a demonstration table outfitted with a large mirror. We were lucky she had a microphone to help us hear the instructions, especially once everyone loosened up a bit! We started out with the Yellin’ Melon, a concoction of vodka, simple syrup, hand squeezed lemon juice and fresh Crenshaw melon. My favorite cocktail of the evening was the Berry Basil Bliss. I mean…it WAS my go-to summertime cocktail and I was finally going to get the recipe!!! Here is what I can tell you. It involves vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, basil leaves and strawberries from the farm stand. It is the quintessential summer sipper. I also really enjoyed the Pineapple Express. Nothing screams summer like a succulent and sweet pineapple. Mix it up with some rum and you have some seriously happy guests. The cocktail magically transported me to the Hawaiian Islands, sipping the Pineapple Express poolside. The food, as usual, was both comforting and inventive. They started things off with a prosciutto wrapped melon. The sweet melon comes from local farmer Drew Rotner of R and G Farms. Food doesn’t get much fresher than that. By the 7th or 8th cocktail (I should disclose we only consumed two of the cocktails, but tasted each of the other 6) who doesn’t love a great slider, fries or street tacos?The Summertime Sangria was also a showstopper. A tumbler filled with rose, rum, pineapple juice, guava puree and club soda pleased this palate. Easy to drink and fruity, my friends would totally enjoy this on a hot summer day paired with some BBQ chicken or a spinach salad of strawberries with goat cheese. Next up was a Jalapeno Margarita. Perry demonstrated how to make the cocktail, but apparently, I wasn’t paying close enough attention. My table learned the hard way that you should gently muddle the jalapenos, not pulverize them. So my insider tip is to pay attention to experts when attending a culinary class. I was also excited to learn how to make a Manhattan. While I have enjoyed my share of this classic cocktail, I had never attempted to make one before. The orange peel and in-house brandied cherries rounded out the rye whisky for a perfect finish. The night was crazy fun! It also gave us each a great appreciation for the attention to to detail bartenders execute to make a specialty cocktail. A few of us posed for pictures after the class was over!

Gin Blossom with Blueberries and Micro-Mint/Lavender

One of the other highlights of the night was hanging out with Towne House Sous Chef Bennyjan Peneyra, who attended the class. I had to stop and strike a pose with him…this guy is a beast in the kitchen and the nicest guy you will ever meet. So if you ever get the chance to stay at Wine and Roses, or are a Lodi local looking for hand-crafted cocktails, stop by Towne House. Teresa and the rest of the staff will take care of you!

Cheers,

Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Suzanne Ledbetter

Fē•nix Rises for Bokisch Harvest Wine Dinner

Fē•nix Rises for Bokisch Harvest Wine Dinner

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 […]

Homegrown Chef Delivers: Riaza Winemaker Dinner

Homegrown Chef Delivers: Riaza Winemaker Dinner

Watch out…two new trendsetters are making waves in Lodi Wine Country: Riaza Wines and Lodi native Chef Nick Guantone are both scoring high marks for elevating the food and wine scene in a MAJOR way! A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of […]

Francis Ford Coppola Rolls out the Red Carpet

Francis Ford Coppola Rolls out the Red Carpet

Winegrape Growers Treated to an Afternoon of Fine Food and Wine

Francis Ford Coppola has it all…exceptional wines, amazing architecture, an on-site restaurant, unique gift items, expansive pool, and multiple tasting bars. I rarely head to the Healdsburg area without making a pit stop, or an afternoon basking in all its glory. I mean…it’s kind of like an adult version of Disneyland, am I right?

If you are planning a visit, be sure to check out their onsite restaurant Rustic, which offers up a variety of classic dishes from their wood-fired oven including the crispy skin Chicken Mattone (commonly referred to as a Chicken under a Brick), Neopolitan Pizzas and Marrakesh Lamb.

I would also suggest you make a visit during the summer months to take advantage of the pools totaling 3,600 square feet of bliss. Complete the ultimate experience by renting a private cabines for the day and checking out the circular bar for your pleasure!

But my most recent visit had a purpose…and I want to share with you all of the details!
On an unusually warm day in May, Geyserville’s Francis Ford Coppola rolled out the red carpet for its winegrape growers! Any chance I get to accompany my husband to an industry event is a no-brainer! In case you haven’t checked out the Fine Foodie Philanthropist before…food and wine are two of my favorite things in this world and I knew this event would be an incredible day to experience both!

My husband’s family business is a grower for Francis Ford Coppola and each May, growers from around the state gather for an informative, but fun day highlighting the happenings of Francis Ford Coppola Wines. While the growers were updated, I headed to the portable kitchen to find Chef Tim Bodell for a behind the scenes tour of the day’s culinary treats!

Culinary Director and Executive Chef Tim Bodell welcomed me alongside his staff and I had so much fun observing them. He coached his team of culinary specialists to a home run! I was immediately taken to his kind and nurturing nature, not at all Gordon Ramsey in an episode of Hell’s Kitchen!To start us off, guests were gathered among the rolling hills of Geyserville vineyards. They poured wines from several of their collections, specifically the Directors Cut and Virginia Dare brands (check back soon for a blog on Virginia Dare). Well, truth be told, I’m a sucker for a Chardonnay, and their 2015 Director’s Cut Russian River Valley Chardonnay hit the spot in the scorching heat. On the other side of the spectrum, my husband really enjoys the 2015 Director’s Cut Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The 2015 Virginia Dare American Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley was also a treat to taste! Chef Bodell offered two appetizers with knockout flavors! First up was an arancini stuffed with pork and accompanied by the most perfect Romesco sauce.  We were also treated to a gorgeous herb cheese spread on a toasted baguette with ratatouille style veggies! The colors were striking and seriously packed a punch in my mouth…a fantastic start to any meal! In fact, I would LOVE to get my hand on the arancini recipe. I wonder what that would cost me????
Next, growers were ushered to a grove of oak trees nestled among grapevines, at two long tables simply decorated in neutrals. The culinary team presented growers with a gorgeous, family-style luncheon highlighting the on-site organic herb and produce garden. My personal faves were the House Made Focaccia With San Marzano Tomatoes, the Hand Carved New York Steak with Salsa Verde and the Orecchiette Pasta Salad with Grilled Vegetables.there was more…a lot more. But for brevity’s sake, I’ll share the photos of my favorites! Bottom line, if  you haven’t been, you need to take a visit to Francis Ford Coppola for a tour of their expansive grounds and their incredible views!

And seriously…could we ask for a better business than Francis Ford Coppola to provide with our grapes? There were at least a dozen winegrape growers from Lodi that shared the beauty of the day with us! How cool is that? The wine community may seem large, but we are all in partnership to bring the BEST product to the market!

A big thank you to Francis Ford Coppola and their grower relation’s staff for the beautiful luncheon, down home hospitality and for allowing me behind the scenes! Check back soon for details on our visit to Coppola’s sister property, Virginia Dare!

Cheers,

The Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Suzanne Ledbetter

Building Stronger Food Communities with the Fresno Food Expo and Simon Majundar

Building Stronger Food Communities with the Fresno Food Expo and Simon Majundar

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. […]

Bradley Ogden and Bokisch Vineyards- A Spanish Foodie’s Dream: Wine and Roses Wine Dinners Part One

Bradley Ogden and Bokisch Vineyards- A Spanish Foodie’s Dream: Wine and Roses Wine Dinners Part One

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 […]

Tasting Tour, Festival, and Private Dinner: ZinFest Part Two

Tasting Tour, Festival, and Private Dinner: ZinFest Part Two

Each year my husband and I host some of our dearest friends for the ZinFest weekend in Lodi. With over 80 wineries in the Lodi region, choosing our itinerary can be a tough gig, but someone has to do it! While ZinFest is in full swing, we like to take the opportunity to stop by some of our favorite Lodi wineries for a quick tour before heading to Lodi Lake.

We chose to reserve a Limo bus to transport us on our jaunt around Lodi wine country…because, well, it is the smart thing to do. There were only 7 of us this year, but its always nice to be able to chat with your friends while rushing from winery to winery.

Our first stop of the day was to Acquiesce! Acquiesce Winery and Vineyards is Lodi’s premier all-white wine winery that specializes in Rhone varietals with attention to detail. When I called to make a reservation for tasting, the owner, Sue Tipton, was the person to call me back to schedule our appointment.

This is one of the qualities that sets Lodi apart from other regions…the winemakers and/or owners  are often in the tasting rooms. And they are down right friendly, often offering a behind the scenes approach unique to the Lodi AVA. But I digress.

Our wine menu and fresh flowers at Acquiesce Winery

When we arrived to Acquiesce, the table was set for our group of seven. The table was complete with fresh flowers and a wine menu letting us know what we would be trying that day. Behind us was the infamous Before I Die chalkboard, that offers guests the opportunity to share with the world their dreams and hopes for the future.

We settled into our seats and began our tasting with the Picpoul Blanc, which loosely translates to lip stinger. Its bright acidity was a perfect way to begin the day of tasting. We were then guided through a flight of wines perfectly paired with small bites. Sue Tipton showcases the symbiotic relationship between food and wine in each and every detail of the tasting experience.

At the conclusion of our wine tasting, I inquired about the wine club (it has been closed to for years). We were told they had recently opened up the club for a limited time. As members of our fair share of Wine Clubs throughout California, we knew we had to jump at the chance to join Acquiesce’s club! We did…and now I can count on consuming Acquiesce all year long!

Wine Club Perks!

Next up, our group traversed to LangeTwins Family Vineyard and Winery. LangeTwins is a monster of a facility. We walked past the cascading waterfalls, meticulous landscaping and concrete pathway to enter the tasting room, where we would begin our tasting. We were greeted by Shelly, who kindly guided us through the assortment of wines highlighted that day. Our group fell in love with the Nero d’Avola with hints of black cherry! This particular bottle is a winery exclusive, so you should start planning your trip to Lodi now!

If you have read my previous blog posts, then you know I am a fan of how this family operates their winery and vineyards. LangeTwins is a leader in the sustainability movement in Lodi and beyond. Their stewardship has resulted in some of the industry’s most notable awards, including the 2006 Leopold Conservation Award and the 2014 BRIT Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing.

LT’s 2013 Midnight Reserve

By now, our stomachs were growling and we knew where to get our grub on…ZinFest! Our driver dropped us off at Lodi Lake and we rushed inside to the ZinFest Cooking School. A good friend, and sponsor of ZinFest, Fiorella Avina of Italian Eats, was on stage to cook her famous Italian meatballs. She was a natural on stage, bantering with Teo Torres of KCRA news, while mixing, searing and serving meatballs to an eager audience of 100. The Lodi Winegrape Commission paired her pork meatballs with the 2015 Michael Klouda Wines Stem Theory. The wine is made of 70% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. The addition of grape stems into the fermentation process gives this wine a unique and distinct flavor worth trying.

Fiorella Avina, of Italian Eats, on the ZinFest Cooking School Stage

We perused some of the food booths and shared one of our favorite local caterers, Addy’s Paella. Other members of our group grabbed oysters, polenta and stuffed focaccia. We ponied up to wine booths to sample some of Lodi’s award-winning wine and talked to the vintners/winegrape growers who make the magic happen.

The scenery at ZinFest can’t be beat. From picnic tables to pop-up lounges with live music, there is something for everyone at ZinFest. Couples relaxed on the lawn overlooking Lodi Lake, some found a tucked away corner of the park to chill and others gabbed it up in the middle of the mayhem. Guests posed for pictures with friends, met the faces of Lodi Wine and most importantly, enjoyed a beautiful day exploring all that Lodi has to offer. If you haven’t been to ZinFest, you should definitely join us next year!

Last up on our packed agenda was a dinner in the privacy of our own backyard. We called in local chef, Jennifer Kupka of the Lodi Airport Cafe, to craft a menu of seasonal food for our out of town guests. Throwing dinner parties is by far one of my greatest joys in life and we were so thrilled with what Chef Kupka prepared…I can’t wait to have her back out soon!

I ended up purchasing some new plates for the dinner because I couldn’t pass up the deal at Pier 1 imports! We set the table the night before and made sure there was plenty of wine, water and candles for soft lighting! We decided the food would be served family style, because with this group of friends, it feels like family!

The evening’s dinner commenced with two hors d’ oeuvres: a crab cake with red pepper aioli and a caramelized corn and cherry tomato basil bruschetta with goat cheese. They were so good I actually had to slap the hands of a few guests to save some for a local couple that was running behind and hadn’t arrived yet. My personal favorite was the bruschetta because what isn’t to like about tomatoes, corn and goat cheese? It was bright, fresh, and savory all at the same time. It also paired well with the Ledbetter Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and Acquiesce Rosé on the table.

Next up was our salad course, a chopped romaine salad with roasted almonds, dates, Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese and a cider/rice wine vinaigrette. It was lightly dressed, and packed a punch of flavor. If you are familiar with Point Reyes cheese, you know this creamy, pungent blue is perfect for salads.

Chef Kupka then transitioned us to our main courses, which were executed perfectly and were by far my favorite part of the evening. First up was grilled shrimp and linguica with green peppers, garlic and white wine. It was served with crusty crostini to sop up all of the garlicky goodness in the bottom of the pan. The shrimp was out of this world and the linguica added the perfect amount of salt and spice to the dish.

Chef then sent out a delicious Duck Confít with sautéed sugar snap peas, edamame and greens. Duck Confít is a dish my husband I both love, so we were so excited when she offered it as an entree. The duck skin was crisped to perfection while the meat was tender and flavorful. Our two sides included a mushroom and pea risotto that Gordon Ramsay would approve of (for my Hell’s Kitchen fans) and a grilled vegetable platter highlighting the produce of the Lodi region.

As if we hadn’t had enough food, we were then treated to one of the most unique desserts I have had the pleasure of tasting. Presented was an olive oil cake with orange marmalade and whipped Mascarpone. I chose it for its variety, and because I didn’t want something too heavy for us to finish our meal. It was an elegantly light cake, garnished with rosemary and brushed with the marmalade to sweeten it ever so slightly. The whipped Mascarpone was simply the cherry on top!

The evening was a huge hit! Or for that matter, the weekend was a huge hit! We laughed, we reminisced, we imbibed. There is nothing quite like catching up with old friends over amazing wines and incredible food. Our annual ZinFest weekend is now a thing of the past, but we have next year to look forward to and this year’s experiences to sustain us until then.

Cheers to Old Friends, Great Wines and Fine Food!

 

Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Suzanne Ledbetter

 

Vintner’s Grille, an Industry Insider Dinner- ZinFest Part One

Vintner’s Grille, an Industry Insider Dinner- ZinFest Part One

Each year 700 guests consisting of vintners, growers, sponsors and visitors converge upon Lodi Lake for an evening showcasing Lodi’s most celebrated winegrape–Zinfandel! The evening is dubbed Vintner’s Grille and features wine tasting, a family-style dinner crafted by Angelina’s, live music by The Ben Kolber […]