Saturday, February 25, 2006

Rainy Saturday

We were hoping to be able to use our new grill today, but it's a rainy and gloomy day here in Columbia. BUT the grill talk reminded me of the great steaks we had for New Years Eve and that I had pictures I could share with ya'll (yep, I said ya'll).

New York Strips

(We also had grilled shrimp & portobellos... Mmmm)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


In an effort not to waste a big bowl of leftover carmelized onion mashed potatoes from the weekend, I decided to make some pierogi. Since I hadn't ever made them before I went searching for some guidance online. I was lucky enough to stumble onto a great website by Gary Dyrkacs which talks about their family recipe handed down through the generations.

With Gary's permission I am including the recipe here...

Dyrkacs Family Pierogi Dough
2½ cups of flour
1 t salt
1 egg
2 T sour cream
½ cup lukewarm water

The website lists a few possible fillings, but I just used the onion mashed potatoes as they were.
Looking back I should have added a bit more salt since the dough is very plain, but they were still delicious!

Raw Pierogi

Cooked and tossed with butter & softened onions

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Rare Wines

One of the perks of working in a fine dining establishment is occassionally in addition to your tip a patron will leave you the unused portion of special bottle of wine. What's even better? Having a housemate who's dating someone working in a restaurant such as this!

We got a rare treat the other night and were able to sample...

1985 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Alexander Valley
1990 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Napa Valley
1992 Opus One Meritage ~ Napa Valley
1986 La Jota Vineyards ~ Howell Mountain, Napa Valley


This past weekend we decided to finally retire our old grill and take advantage of a sale at Lowe's for a new one. Although it came in a million pieces, the guys got it together really quick.

Here it is!

We tested it out with some spicy short ribs...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Five Course Wine Tasting Menu

After Rebecca and Ed made plans to come down for the weekend, we decided it would be fun to have a wine tasting dinner right here. They were to pick the wines and I would make a menu around it. Craig and I thought it would be fun to make the menu a complete surprise, so we banished everyone from the kitchen between courses. It worked out really well and we are hoping to do it again soon!

Course 1 ~ Cavicchioli Sparkling Red Wine
prosciutto wrapped arugula salad bundles topped with balsamic vinaigrette and a romano cheese curl

Course Two ~ 2004 Horton Viognier
Homemade pork dumplings with a spicy soy dipping sauce

Course Three ~ 2001 Bellini Chianti
Italian Trio - Homemade spinach ravioli in a thyme butter sauce; Crostini with Arugula, mozzarella, & prosciutto; Rigatoni with homemade spicy vodka sauce

Course Four ~ 2000 Geyser Peak Reserve Meritage
Roasted Beef Tenderloin with cayenne blue cheese dipping sauce, carmelized onion mashed potatoes, and asparagus bundles

Course Five ~ 2004 Ferrari Carano Grenache Rose
"Fruit Taco" - Taco shaped almond lace cookie filled with whipped cream, fresh berries, and a drizzle of raspberry coulis.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Flowers Pinot Noir

2003 Flowers Pinot Noir ($50)

“With a passion for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Joan and Walt Flowers have developed 80 acres of vineyard on the wild and rugged Sonoma Coast. Camp Meeting Ridge and the new Flowers Ranch are both located less than 2 miles from the Pacific, with the steep hillside vineyards at elevations ranging from 1350 feet to 1875 feet. The vineyards are warm sites in a cool climate, producing grapes with intense flavor and color. The Flowers' gravity-flow / gas assist winery is outfitted with many high-tech features allowing the wine to be made in a low-tech, minimal intervention way.”

Flowers Vineyard & Winery
28500 Seaview Road
Cazadero, CA 95421-9635
Phone: (707) 847-3661
Fax: (707) 847-3740

Out Tasting Notes: This bottle is not easy to find, but if you like Pinot Noirs, its definitely one to keep an eye out for. Flowers has become one of California’s cult wineries and you have to get on their mailing list to purchase their wine direct. The 2003 Pinot was aged in 100 percent French Oak barrels and has a beautiful deep ruby color. An A+ Pinot.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Domaine Sainte Eugenie Corbieres

2002 Domaine Sainte Eugenie Corbieres ($9)

Another great bottle imported by Bobby Kacher. We’ve found many of the Kacher selections are of exceptional quality and for under $10.00 per bottle, an incredible value.

Our Tasting Notes: Smooth medium bodied red with rich dark fruit flavors and subtle dry finish.

Wine Type: Red
Country: FranceRegion: Languedoc-Roussillon

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar

Haute cuisine in Northeast Columbia? It’s finally here.

Although it’s located on Sparkleberry and Clemson Road in Northeast Columbia, when you walk into Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar you could easily be in NYC. The décor definitely has big-city feel.

We were able to snag reservations for their second night open to the public. Although it appeared they were more than fully staffed, they were still only taking limited reservations and working with a limited menu.

I started the night with one of their signature drinks, a Pear Sparkler. I wish I had remembered my camera, because even the drinks were swanky and cool. A combination of house made pear vodka and a few other magic ingredients (which escape me right now).

The meal started with an amuse of roasted beets with fennel and citrus. The beets were a little al dente, but the flavor combination was fantastic.

The menu items we tried….


“BLT” Caesar Salad
Roasted Vine Ripe Tomato, Applewood Bacon, Parmesan Crisp

Maytag Blue Cheese Polenta stuffed Portobello Mushroom
Rosemary Oil, Organic Spinach Salad, Roasted Red Peppers

Seared Diver Scallops
Vanilla-Saffron Cream, Strawberry-Fennel Relish


Zinfandel-Molasses braised Beef Short Ribs
Parmesan Potato Puree, Zinfandel Demi Glace, braised Swiss Chard

Brown Sugar In-house brined White Marble Farms Pork Chop
homemade Blue Cheese fused Applesauce, Wild Berry Pan Sauce, Butternut Squash Hash

Cedar Planked Wild Salmon
Roasted Mushrooms, Parmesan Potato Puree, Balsamic Butter Sautéed Spinach

The highlight for me was dessert. I got the Solstice version of Coffee & Donuts. It was an almond-espresso custard with a fresh made donut. AMAZING!

Our meals were stunning. The dishes were elegantly (but not pretentiously) plated. The food was both traditional and contemporary at the same time. We were thrilled with our meals. For only its second night open to the public it appears the kitchen team has really come together.

I was surprised there weren’t any vegetarian entrees on the menu, but when I spoke with owner Michael Cramer via email a few days after our visit to let him know how much we enjoyed ourselves, he assured me there would be when menu was finally completed.

Solstice is a modern restaurant, with a warm color palette, a beautiful custom-designed bar, and modern lighting. The room is casual but cool with music to match. The service staff members are friendly and polite. There is a large private room that takes up a large portion of the restaurant, but the intimacy of the rest of the dining area ensures you are well looked after.

I can’t wait to go back.

Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar
841-4 Sparkleberry Lane
(803) 788-6966

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Siduri Pinot Noir

2003 Siduri Garys' Vineyard Pinot Noir ($45)

We picked up this bottle at our first trip to Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar in Columbia (watch for a restaurant review in the next day or two).

Siduri is the name of the Babylonian goddess of wine. It is also an exceptional Pinot Noir producer. Husband and wife winemakers Adam and Dianna Lee, originally from Texas, produce a fantastic California Pinot Noir under the Siduri label.

According to, the Lee’s make 27 different Pinot Noirs from vineyards as far south as Santa Barbara County and as far north as Oregon's Willamette Valley. The first commercial wine they made, in 1994, earned a 90-point (out of 100) score from noted wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr., and the wine sold out immediately.

Garys’ Vineyard is named after partners Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni who planted this 50 acre vineyard in 1995.

Our Tasting Notes: This wine is flat-out great. While the nose is intense and earthy, there is plenty of raspberry and cherry for the fruit lover. The finish is looooong. Since the alcohol is on the higher side (over 15%), this is probably not the best for someone just starting with Pinot’s.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Ditalini with Pesto

Eaten hot or cold, you can't go wrong with ditalini pasta simply tossed with basil pesto.