Summer Fields

Summer Fields

Monday, August 16, 2010

Beautiful Evening at Buttonwood

It was a beautiful evening at Buttonwood Farms Saturday, where I was one of the lucky guests at their annual farm dinner. It was so lovely to sit out in the vineyard by the lake, and enjoy the delicious food and wine and delightful company. By the time the sun went down the breeze died down as well and the setting went from pretty to magical as the lights came on in the trees and the path was lined with candles. Seven wines were served and the favorites at our table were the Cabernet Franc (we had the 1999, but there's a very good 2007 available in the tasting room) and the BW blend, named for Buttonwood's owner, Betty Williams. The food just kept coming...I can't possibly mention it all here. There was a delicious sweet corn and goat cheese quesadilla; the heirloom tomatoes were outstanding; there was lamb, there was pork...and even though we were stuffed by the end of the meal, everyone finished their cobbler, made from the delicious peaches the farm is also known for. I also have to mention how much we enjoyed visiting with the guests at our table, a mixture of local residents, visitors from out of town and members of Buttonwood's extended family. As we learned some of Buttonwood's history, we were struck by the people and families that make up the larger Buttowood 'family' and their easygoing appreciation for the farm and for one another. We felt right at home and at least for the evening, part of the extended family ourselves.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whether or not you're a foodie, you can be proud of our local wineries, which have once again gotten the attention of those in the know about food and wine. In the September issue of Food & Wine there is a whole page devoted to recommendations for wines to be paired with the various recipes this month, and wines from no less than four different area wineries are included. Bravo to Brander, whose 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (noted as a terrific wine under $15) is paired with Ratatouille and Goat Cheese Subs and Zaca Mesa, whose 2009 Viognier is recommended to go with the recipe for Fried Chicken. Beckman's 2009 Grenache Rosé, a "crisp, berry-inflected dry rosé," is paired with Shrimp Gumbo. Finally, in the reds, Lincourt's 2006 Santa Barbara Syrah is the recommendation to accompany Carolina Pulled Pork. (The whole issue has a Southern theme, if you're wondering.) Congratulations to all and well-done to Food & Wine for recognizing what we already know...that the Los Olivos area produces some of the very best wines available.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Los Olivos Cheese Company

Whether you're a fromagier (cheese expert) or just a cheese lover (who isnt'?) you should really know about the Los Olivos Cheese Company. The company offers light catering, picnic baskets and gifts featuring a lovely selection of domestic and imported cheeses, including some of my personal favorites like Machengo, Mahon and Humboldt Fog.
Jim Thomas and Lindy Shelden own LOCC. He's a retired sheriff and she was the cheese manager at the Los Olivos Grocery (see earlier post) for several years, so she knows her stuff! LOCC has fresh cheese delivered every week and their lunches are available daily at the Gainey tasting room. They also supply cheese to Rideau, in addition to their other public and private events. Lindy is available to do tasting parties as well. She'll teach you and your guests about the origins of different cheeses and how to pair them with different wines and accoutrements. I've had one of these parties and they are really fun.
As cheese experts, Jim and Lindy offer the following advice:
  • Jim says, "try them all!" Everyone has different taste and there's a cheese for everyone.
  • Lindy says, "only buy freshly cut cheese" and avoid those pre-packaged, shrink-wrapped cheeses you see in stores. Who knows how long they've been around?

By the way, her favorite is Eppoises, a very strong french, washed rind variety with a creamy interior, and his is a mild cheddar, English Cotswald, which they tell me is also great melted over potatoes. Mmm. One final tidbit...Jim and Lindy own six goats, so I had to ask: are they going to make their own cheese? A longing sigh from Lindy, who says she'd love to one day, but not yet. For now their six goats will remain pets.

See their current list of cheeses at

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Los Olivos Homegrown, at the corner of Grand and Jonata, is open for business again this summer, offering a terrific selection for all garlic lovers. If you think of garlic as just those tight white bunches you see in the supermarket, think again! Locally grown and hand-picked, Homegrown's selection included at least 15 varieties of different colors and strengths when I was there the other day. My favorite has a stronger than average flavor and is a beautiful deep purple. Homegrown is open on Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 6 stop by. If you're not sure what to do with that fresh garlic, how about roasting it and then spreading it on bread or chicken, or putting it in fresh tomato sauce? Cut the garlic in half and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Wrap in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes (depending on the size of the head.) When it comes out, the cloves will be soft and pop right out of the skins. Spread and enjoy!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Last summer we had such nice lunches under the trees at the Rideau Vineyard. The setting was lovely, the food was delicious and generously portioned, and together with a taste of wine, it made for the perfect place to take friends for a wine country lunch. I was disappointed when I learned that lunch was no longer available, but as it was winter when I learned this, I assumed it was because of the time of year and that they would begin serving when the weather improved and the visitors were in greater numbers. I was quite surprised to learn the other day that the reason they still aren't serving lunch actually has something to do with the County. Apparently they do not want anyone to provide food service in a "residential" area. You can appreciate the irony, I'm sure. They can offer wine tasting, but not lunch. (In fact, you'd think that they would support wineries offering people something to eat with their wine to mitigate the effects of what sometimes becomes too much tasting. ) I should mention that Rideau is still serving a charcuterie plate with meats and cheeses, but there are no sandwiches and salads paired with wine. For those of us who've enjoyed a lazy afternoon lunch at Rideau, it's a true loss. On the brighter side, in addition to tasting, Rideau sells some of the best barrel aged balsamic vinegar in the valley. It's delicious and pours like syrup. Yum.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Peaches at Buttonwood

The peaches have arrived at Buttonwood Farm, just down the road from downtown Los Olivos! Cool weather had delayed the harvest, but Saturday at the winery they were celebrating their arrival with peach trifle, sliders with peach chutney, grilled was quite the feast. And even for those who didn't indulge, the first crops of peaches were available for yellow (Flavorcrest) and one white (Elegant Lady), both delicious. Peaches are $2.75 a pound, either variety, or $2.50 a pound if you buy in larger quantities. Save your boxes for credit if you buy a larger amount.

I couldn't help but buy a few myself, and I'm planning to make several trips back. I hear they make the best peach ice cream ever, and I'm determined to see for myself! Sounds like ice cream may be a few weeks off, but there may be pies as soon as this week. Yum!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Locals Only

On Friday evenings, you might like to stop over at the Heather Cottage in Los Olivos and thank our friends at Daniel Gehrs for reaching out to the community. Although the tasting room usually closes at 6 o'clock, on Fridays they are open until 8 for local residents and they're offering free tastes of their latest hand-crafted wines.
Hope to see you there!