Bouillabaisse without fish but full of ceremony

Bowls of Goodness cookbookIf there’s one subject more contentious in Marseille than the sanctity of the Olympique football team, it’s the proper recipe for bouillabaisse. Some sources argue that it’s a poor fisherman’s stew made up of bycatch, while the charter of the Marseille Bouillabaisse organization specifies at least four kinds of fin fish and two optional shellfish. That the dish is usually served in two courses and spiced with pricey threads of saffron argues that maybe it was always a dish for the wealthy.

Most of those fish species are expensive imports where we live, so we’re always happy to find another way to enjoy the dish. Nina Olsson, the force behind Britain’s, has provided a really striking vegetarian alternative for bouillabaisse in her recent cookbook, Bowls of Goodness published by Kyle Books ($27.95). These vegetarian recipes, which include notes to make the dishes vegan and/or gluten-free, pay heed to culinary traditions and tried-and-true flavors while offering healthy plates for a plant-based diet. Her bouillabaisse keeps the spirit of the stew but skips the fish, relying on seaweed for the umami of the ocean. We prefer a pinch of saffron to the single thread she proposes.

Fish free bouillabaisse photo by Nina Olsson


Rustic saffron and vegetable soup with seaweed and rouille

There’s something very romantic about rustic soups such as bouillabaisse. As much as I like perfectly blended soups, the sense of the Old World that derives from a soup full of texture is hard to beat. This one comes from Marseille, the old seaport in southern France. In this recipe I have transformed what was originally a fish stew into a delicious vegetarian soup, infusing it with a seafood flavor from kombu seaweed.

A traditional bouillabaisse is made with a variety of seafood, often the leftovers after fishermen have sold the best of their catch. To duplicate the textures in a classic bouillabaisse I used a mixture of vegetables, giving cauliflower a prominent position. The soup’s flavor is elevated by saffron, fennel, and almond. It is served with a tasty rouille sauce made with roasted pepper and mayonnaise, which is spooned into the finished soup and scooped up with bread. – Nina Olsson

serves 2 to 3


2 red bell peppers, 1 cut into strips and 1 left whole
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into half-inch dice
2 cups cauliflower florets
olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
3 shallots, thinly sliced
handful of almonds, thinly sliced
half leek, thinly sliced
4 cups vegetable broth
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2/3 cup dry white wine
4-inch strip of kombu seaweed
2 bay leaves
1/4 lb. black olives
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
8 oz. can chickpeas, drained
1 saffron thread
1 tablespoon Pernod (optional)
salt and pepper
extra-virgin olive oil

1 red bell pepper, roasted (see above)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (or Vegenaise to make a vegan version)
juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
pinch of ground star anise (optional)
1/2 teaspoon harissa paste
rustic bread, to serve


Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Place the peppers, sweet potato, and cauliflower florets on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and thyme. Roast until soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, peel the skin from the whole red pepper, then halve and remove seeds, ready to make the rouille.

Blend all the ingredients for the rouille and refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

To make the soup, heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Gently cook the garlic, fennel, shallots, and almonds for a few minutes. Add the leek and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, wine, kombu, bay leaves, olives, nutritional yeast (if using), honey, and salt to taste. Cover the pan and let it simmer slowly for 15 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables, chickpeas, and saffron, then continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and discard the kombu and bay leaves. Add the Pernod (if using), and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve with the rouille and rustic bread.


01 2018

Enjoying everything fishy in Marseille

The fish market at the Quai des Belges in Marseille

When a magazine assignment took us to Catalunya last fall, we decided to extend our trip by taking a train to Marseille. After all, it was the only one of the three great port cities of the western Mediterranean that we didn’t already know and love. Its history is deeply entwined with Barcelona and Naples. What Marseille has that the others lack is a long slot harbor where small vessels are well-sheltered from the weather. Le Vieux Port (“old port”) forms the picturesque waterfront of historic Marseille.

stepping off a fishing boat at Quai des Belges fish market in MarseilleThe anchorages here primarily host pleasure craft, but every morning small one- and two-man fishing boats—primarily seiners and trawlers—tie up at the Quai des Belges and unload their overnight catch. In many cases, the fishermen’s wives meet the boats at the quai. They wrestle big polyethylene tubs of fish onto display tables, set up scales and cash boxes, and sell to all comers. Buyers range from Marseille householders planning dinner to chefs from the waterfront restaurants picking up that evening’s catch of the day. We saw a restaurateur snatch up an entire tub of hake before the fisherman could even get it to a table. Others were shopping for the assortment of fish to make Marseille’s famous (and expensive) bouillabaisse. We saw it as a chance to familiarize ourselves with the likely dinner menu.

Varied catch shows health of fishery

mollusk seller at Quai des Belges fish market in MarseilleNot all the catch necessarily comes off boats. The older woman at left hopped from a van and wheeled her shellfish into the market in a home shopping cart. Setting up on a small folding table, she sold whelks, cockles, and limpets that she had gathered in the intertidal zone. She chalked her prices—€2-3 per kilo—onto small squares of slate.

The catch can be surprisingly different from boat to boat, reflecting the general health of the Mediterranean in this part of Provence. One boat may only have small tuna that the fisherman cuts into steaks, while another will land big tubs of red mullet. Another may have small sea bass and a version of ocean perch, while yet another may have caught nothing but mackerel. Some vessels that have been out longer may have catches from different spots—tubs of beautifully mottled squid, a couple of kinds of flounder, and a rainbow of silvery mackerel and plump golden gilthead bream.

The fish market operates daily from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.

variety of fish at Quai des Belges fish market in Marseille


01 2018

A Dalí-ance in Catalan gastronomy

Salvador Dalí House in Port Lligat, Spain

When we visited Salvador Dalí’s home and studio in Port Lligat, Spain, late last year, we didn’t know that the cookbook by the most surreal of Surrealist artists had been re-published in 2016. But we knew he loved to eat. Dalí and his wife and muse, Gala, spent a lot of time in their house-studio in the fishing cove of Port Lligat, about a mile away from Cadaqués near the Spanish border with France.

The property began as a fisherman’s shanty when Dalí bought it in 1930. Over the next 40 years, the house accreted new rooms and wings and gardens and statuary and…. Well, Dalí was prone to excess. That’s a photo of the building at the top of this post. It perches above a sheltered beach where fishermen keep their small boats. It’s the most intimate and charming of the artists’ three homes maintained by the Dalí Foundation ( The foundation opens the house to small numbers of visitors at a time. Book far in advance and do not miss your time slot.

Dalí statue on beach in Cadaqués, Spain

Dinner in Cadaqués

The couple entertained here extensively, but also made the brisk up-and-downhill walk (or short drive) into Cadaqués for meals. They are still remembered as being particularly fond of the zarzuela, or stew, of fisn and lobster served at Restaurant Sa Gambina (Calle Riba Nemesi Llorens, Cadaques; +34 972-25-81-27, The little Cap de Creus village recalls Dalí fondly with a statue of the artist striking a pose on the beach (above).

Dalí did love his shellfish. One of the recipes in his cookbook Les Dîners de Gala is based on a dish served at Michelin-starred La Tour d’Argent ( in Paris. In fact, the book features recipes created in collaboration with several great French chefs. Its re-publication has revived interest in the artist’s penchant for playing with his food. PBS Digital Studios did a segment of The Art Assigment devoted to Dalí on December 28. They asked if we’d call your attention to the attempt to make “Bush of Crayfish in Viking Herbs.” It’s a drolly hilarious production. Here’s the YouTube video:


01 2018

La Forge Merlot cozies up to ratatouille pizza

La Forge Merlot with ratatouille pizza
We always thought drinking good wines with pizza was our dirty little secret. But then we found that great pizza is a given in California’s Sonoma wine country. We were especially taken by the pizza-wine pairings at Comstock Wines. Unlike us, the Sonoma folks couldn’t enjoy pizza and wine while the New England Patriots.

As football season begins to wind down, we’re exploring a wider world of wine with pizza. As we learned from pizza guru Rosario Del Nero of Bertucci’s, pizza can support an infinite variety of toppings. Just show restraint. “When it comes to toppings, less is more,” Del Nero cautioned. “You don’t want to overwhelm your pizza.”

A mixed half case from wine distributor Esprit du Vin ( arrived at the end of the year. We’ve designated them for pizza pairings, which is proving both challenging and a lot of fun.

The wine: La Forge Estate Merlot 2015

La Forge Estate Merlot bottleMerlot is the good-time-Charlie grape of Bordeaux compared to the tougher, much tannic Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot ripens early and makes lush and plummy wines. It’s widely grown around the world and often marketed as the soft alternative to Cabernet. The rap on Merlot is that it’s often too soft and unstructured.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. This Merlot was crafted in the southwest corner of France by Jean-Claude Mas. Since he took over Domaines Paul Mas nearly two decades ago, he’s been a pioneer in restoring luster to the wines of Languedoc. Taking a decidedly New World approach to this daily table red, he’s aimed for intense concentration. The grapes were destemmed, fermented cool for five days, and then macerated another nine days with daily pumpovers before pressing. The first pressings were blended back in with free-run juice. The malolactic fermentation was in barrique, where the wine was aged another six months before bottling.

The 2015 benefits from some air, as the oak still lingers on the wine. We opened it an hour before eating, but it didn’t fully blossom until we poured the last glass—and then wished we had more. The intense plum and blackberry nose gives way to a palate of red fruit, dark spices, and toasted coffee. It’s a great example of the grape’s potential, and of Languedoc’s suitability for Merlot. The wine retails between $8 and $15.

Ratatouille pizza

The pizza: Ratatouille with fresh tomatoes and feta

Languedoc isn’t quite Provence, but it’s only a few kilometers away. Our first thought was to match this wine to a classic Provençal dish. Fortunately, we had some ratatouille on hand from a dinner earlier in the week. To brighten it up, we thought we’d add some sweet hothouse mini-tomatoes. Tangy feta is a classic foil for ratatouille, but it doesn’t melt very well. We thought we’d put some on the pizza, but added some fresh mozzarella as well.

Interestingly enough, the pizza brought out some of the herbal qualities in the wine, including some pleasant overtones of eucalyptus and the resinous scent of Mediterranean brush. For what it’s worth, we used the recipe for “Quick Ratatouille” from EAT RIGHT by Nick Barnard, published by Kyle Books ( You can find the recipe in this post.



1 teaspoon olive oil
dough for 16-inch pizza (see below)
3/4 cup leftover ratatouille, well-drained
6 oz. ping-pong ball-sized tomatoes, peeled and halved or quartered
3 oz. feta
3 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut in very thin slices


Set oven at 450°F.

Brush olive oil onto stretched-out pizza dough. Spread ratatouille thinly. Crumble half of feta over the vegetables. Distribute tomatoes. Crumble remaining feta over top. Distribute mozzarella slices evenly. When oven is heated, slide pizza in on top rack. Cook about 10 minutes.


This is our basic pizza dough for cooking in a conventional home oven using a conventional pizza pan. Measurements are by weight because flour can vary dramatically based on humidity and how firmly you pack the measuring cup. We prefer the extra flavor of half whole wheat and half white flour. But the recipe works fine if you use white flour alone.


210 grams flour
1/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon (7 grams) sugar
150 grams ice water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil


In food processor fitted with steel blade, add flour, yeast, and sugar. Process 30 seconds to mix. With processor turned on, dribble ice water through feed tube until absorbed. Process another 30 seconds.

Push dough down to evenly distribute in the processing bowl. Let rest for at least 30 minutes. This allows the yeast to get a head start on the salt. (It’s the same trick that makes French bread rise properly.)

When the waiting period is over, add salt and olive oil and process until the dough pulls away from the sides of bowl.

Turn out and place in barely greased 1-quart bowl. Cover loosely and let rise, preferably six hours or more, in cool spot. (Or refrigerate overnight, removing 3 hours before cooking to let dough return to room temperature.) If dough expands to rim, jiggle bowl to make dough subside.

Set oven to 450°F, making sure that one rack is on the top rails.

Flatten ball on slippery surface very lightly dusted with flour. We use polyethylene flexible cutting boards. Stretch by hand into a 16-inch round. Place well-seasoned pizza pan dusted with cornmeal on top of pizza and invert. Trim off excess or roll into a thicker edge. (Or invert onto dusted peel if using a pizza stone or steel in the oven.) Place toppings on pizza. Cook on oven’s top rack for 8 minutes if toppings are light, 10 minutes if laden with cheese or heavy vegetables. The Neapolitan-style crust should be crisp and browned on the bottom and slightly chewy on the top. Cooking time is much briefer if using a pizza stone or steel.


01 2018

Darina Allen takes food from seed to plate

Darina Allen Talk about good timing. When it gets cold and snowy here in New England, we pull out the seed catalogs and start planning our summer garden. Right on cue, GROW COOK NOURISH (Kyle Books, $45) by Darina Allen arrived in the mail. It’s the 16th book for the Irish chef and co-founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School (Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland, +353 21 464 6785, In a bit of understatement, Allen terms the thick volume a “kitchen garden companion.” It’s truly a guide to growing, preparing, and sometimes preserving vegetables, fruits, herbs, and edible flowers. She covers pretty much every fruit and vegetable we’ve ever heard of and many that we haven’t. We were so impressed that we arranged to speak with her by phone.

When we reached her in Ireland, Allen agreed that “it’s the time of year to curl up in front of the fire with seed catalogs and have a lovely planning session, a dreamy sort of fantasy for next year.” Allen’s cooking school sits on a 100-acre organic farm garden with an acre of greenhouses. That means she can dream big and grow things that her Zone 9 climate might not otherwise allow. But Allen is convinced that anyone can—and should—grow at least some of their food.

“The whole message behind this book is that it doesn’t matter where you are,” she says. “As long as you have light, a container, seeds, and water, you can grow something, even if you are in a high-rise in Manhattan or Shanghai.”

Capitalizing on the tastes of travel

Farmers market Portland, MaineAlong with detailed advice on growing, harvesting, and storing everything from cardoons to salsify, Allen has included about 500 recipes in the book. She travels frequently and we were impressed with her intuitive embrace of global flavors and cooking traditions. Like us, she loves to visit farmers’ markets. “You really do get a true picture of what local people are eating and what is in season at that time,” she says.

When she encounters a dish that she particularly likes on her travels she might jot down a few notes and even take a photo on her iPhone. “But,” she says, “the most important thing is your taste memory. If I fancy a dish, I try to recreate it as soon as possible when I come home while the memory of the taste is still very vibrant. I test and taste, test, taste. You can often get it fairly close. Other times, you might do a variation.”

Another thing we love about the book is that the recipes tend to be quite straightforward, even when the ingredients list is long. Allen kindly agreed to let us publish her recipe for Thai Chicken, Galangal & Cilantro Soup (below). The commentary is all hers. The photo of the soup is by Clare Winfield.

As for our garden, we are going to plant some annual marjoram. “It’s my favorite herb of all time,” Allen told us. “If I could only choose one, that would have to be it.”

Darina Allen's Thai Chicken Soup


A particularly delicious example of how fast and easy a Thai soup can be. We serve it in blue and white Chinese porcelain bowls. The kaffir lime leaves and galangal are served, but not eaten. The chile may, of course, be nibbled. Shrimp can be substituted for chicken in this recipe with equally delicious results. We usually use one red Thai chile, but the number depends on your taste and how hot the chiles are. Fresh lime leaves are not available in every store so buy them any time you spot them and pop them into a bag in your freezer. Blanched and refreshed rice noodles are also delicious added to this soup—hey presto, you have a main course. Serve in wide pasta bowls with lots of fresh cilantro scattered over the top.
—Darina Allen

Serves 8


3 3/4 cups homemade chicken stock
4 kaffir lime leaves
2-inch piece of galangal, peeled and sliced (if using fresh ginger, use a third less)
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 ounces free-range, organic chicken breast, very finely sliced
1 cup coconut milk
1 to 3 Thai red chiles
approximately 5 tablespoons cilantro leaves


Put the chicken stock, lime leaves, galangal or ginger, fish sauce, and lemon juice into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring all the time, then add the chicken and coconut milk. Continue to cook over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until the chicken is just cooked. Crush the chiles with a knife or Chinese chopper and add to the soup with the cilantro and cook for just a few seconds. Ladle into hot bowls and serve immediately.


01 2018

Where to Eat at the Airport: SFO

Dogpatch at SFO
Dogpatch bakehouse and caffè ( at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) takes its name from the city’s now trendy former shipbuilding district adjacent to Potrero Hill. But it takes its ethos from the region’s devotion to fresh local food.

The takeaway eateries at Terminal 1 (Boarding Area C) and Terminal 3 (Boarding Area E) display a list of farms and other local producers and suppliers that provide everything from fresh greens to olive oil, vinegar, crusty breads, and Italian cold cuts. It’s a last chance for a taste of California before travelers board their planes—perhaps headed to locales less fixated with food.

The menu ranges from breakfast burritos and bagels and lox with fruit salad to marinated portobello wraps and select-your-own-ingredients salads. In October, the Dogpatch introduced the quintessential Californian light meal: avocado toast. Most origin stories hold that the treat was first seen on a menu in Sydney, Australia in the mid-1990s. But California—which grows more avocados than any other state and has a devotion to health and fitness trends—is, in our minds, its spiritual home.

avocado toast at Dogpatch at SFO

Basics of avocado toast

The basic concept is simple. Mash an avocado and spread it on toast as if it were butter. But the devil is in the details and Dogpatch handles them well. To begin with, kitchen staff place both sliced and mashed avocado on a piece of coarse-textured, crusty bread. That bread adds a layer of flavor and rough texture that contrasts sharply with the cool and oozy avocado. Then they add just enough toppings—cherry tomatoes, sorrel, feta, and microgreens—to keep the open-face sandwich flavorful and interesting. It’s pretty to look at and photograph. It’s even better to eat.

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01 2018

Moshin calculates exceptional biodynamic Pinot Noir

Rick Moshin of Moshin Vineyards
You could say that Rick Moshin (above) is a calculating fellow. Before the proprietor and winemaker at Moshin Vineyards (10295 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-5499, got into the business, he was a math instructor at San Jose State. The skills have served him well. He keeps the big picture of winemaking in his head like a blackboard full of calculations while still managing to pay attention to every detail. His wines are like elegant solutions to complex problems. They have a kind of Pythagorean grace.

“Biodynamic is the wave of the future,” he said when we visited him in November. He’s not doctrinaire about it. The most important principles, he believes, are those that treat the soil like a living organism that constantly recycles whatever materials will biodegrade. He makes his own compost to encourage microbial growth and plants cover crops that can be turned into the soil.

Moshin Vineyards tasting roomIn 2005, he built a winery on a hillside. All the operations flow downwhill from the crush pad at the top to fermentation vessels to tanks and barrels for aging to the tasting room (right) at the base. His estate vineyards are almost entirely devoted to Russian River Pinot Noir with just a half-acre of Pinot Blanc from Alsatian clones. Most parcels are planted in Old World clones. Moshin speaks about the vines with reverence and tenderness. And he handles the juice the same way. The gravity feed system pampers the wine, moving it through the various stages without the bruising effects of mechanical pumping.

Tastes like the music of the spheres

Moshin Brut RoséPinot Noir is clearly Moshin’s passion. He makes several versions, based on the special character of each of his estate vineyards and the vineyards with which he contracts. With only time for a brief tasting, we started by sampling the 2013 Brut Rosé Sparkling Pinot Noir. It had the lusciousness of a good Crémant de Borgogne from northern Burgundy. Three years on the lees guarantees a bready nose and a creamy mouthfeel. The pinpoint carbonation combines with the acidity to make the wine a great complement to food—or a good choice for toasting.

Moshin depends entirely on natural yeasts and adapts his winemaking to the growing conditions of each vintage. The 2012 Estate Pinot Noir comes across soft and light, with hints of clove, cherry, and orange peel. The 2014 Estate Pinot Noir Lot 4 Selection, by comparison, bursts with aroma of red fruit and rose petals. We also tasted the 2015 Estate Pinot Noir, which promises to be a truly great vintage. A dry year produced small grapes in sparse clusters, reducing overall yield to about half of normal. But less is clearly more—more intensity, more color, more depth. Just barely in release, Moshin 2015 Estate Pinot Noir is a wine to set aside to mature.


01 2018

Happy New Year! Marseille man says, Peace for 2018…

Marseille graffiti wishing Peace
Marseille, for all its grit, often gets things right. It’s a city with heart. We were walking through a residential part of town in October when we spotted this painted garage door. Battered and spattered as it might be, the sentiment is surely right for 2018. Peace, man!

Happy New Year!


01 2018

Healdsburg’s Journeyman gets to the meat of the matter

Cathy Seghesio at Journeyman

No one would ever accuse Peter and Cathy Seghesio (above) of mailing it in, even if their new salumeria, butcher counter, and wine-tasting shop opened in Healdsburg’s former post office back in August. Journeyman Meat Company (404 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-395-MEAT, has swiftly become the source for charcuterie in Sonoma County, and that’s hard work.

Peter Seghesio of JourneymanPeter Seghesio (right) spent much of his adult life overseeing the Seghesio Family Vineyards wine operation, bringing its old-vine Zinfandel to national prominence. When the winery was absorbed by Crimson Wine Group, he threw himself into learning traditional Italian butchery and charcuterie.

“You see a salumeria on every block in Italy,” he says. “It was something we felt our area lacked.”

Peter and Cathy also launched Journeyman wine company. They use the high-altitude San Lorenzo vineyard for their estate wines, including a 100 percent Zinfandel (Rockgarden) and a spectacular old-vine field blend called The Pearl. When Peter’s greatgrandther bought the property in 1896, it already had a young Zinfandel vineyard. Scientists at UC Davis have helped identify other varietals interplanted with the Zin, including Petite Sirah, Carignane, Grand Noir, Alicante Bouschet, Negrette, and Mataro. The Pearl has huge fruit (mainly blackberry), bright spice (cinnamon and clove), and an aromatic hint of bay laurel. (Wine Spectator scores The Pearl at 95.) Journeyman also makes a Chablis-style Chardonnay and a cherry-blackberry fruity Pinot Noir.

Salumi, sausages, and meat cuts from Sonoma herds

sausages at Journeyman

The charcuterie upholds the high standard set by the wines. In fact, the Seghesios built their own USDA-certified salumificio in nearby Cloverdale using Italian equipment imported from Parma (where they know a few things about prosciutto). The hogs, lamb, and bison are all sourced from local farms. “It was important to us that all our products have a sense of place,” Peter says.

For beef, the Seghesios purchase Angus yearlings and raise them to about 1,200 pounds, harvesting one animal per month. They also purchase some Wagyu to meet demand at the butcher counter.

exterior of Journeyman“We all want to eat better meat,” Peter says. “We want to know what goes into it.” Journeyman sausages are made, in many cases, from family recipes, and are delivered daily from the salumificio.

In addition to charcuterie boards, the shop also serves a limited food menu using a wood-fired oven. The white pizza has roasted leeks with Journeyman cured bacon and a farm egg, while the red pizza is topped with family-recipe sausage, local peppers, and soft Taleggio cheese.

If you have a bigger appetite (or want to counteract the power of several glasses of San Lorenzo red wine), order the Butcher’s Steak. It’s a small steak (3 ounces) roasted in the oven and served with arugula, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, and grilled bread.


12 2017

Jordan captures the luscious bounty of Sonoma

John Jordan of Jordan Vineyard and Winery

You can be forgiven if you rub your eyes at first sight of Jordan Vineyard & Winery (1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-5250, It looks like a mirage. Tom and Sally Jordan established the 1,200-acre Alexander Valley estate in 1972 as an homage to Bordeaux. True to their vision, the ivy-covered manse overlooking gardens and vineyards appears to have been transported whole from the gently rolling hills of Entre-Deux-Mers. Now their son John Jordan (above) continues the tradition of crafting Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Russian River Valley Chardonnay in the Old World style.

Vineyard at Jordan WineryProducing two superb wines—one modeled on Bordeaux’s Saint-Julien, the other on Burgundy’s Montrachet—gives Jordan Winery a clarity of focus. But following the model of Napa, Jordan is a destination winery. The Jordan family has made it a showcase of Sonoma’s bounty. The land was originally covered in prune plum orchards. The Jordans have preserved nearly three-quarters of the property as natural habitat, full of ancient oaks and populated with wild ducks, turkeys, and rabbits. Two lakes and several pastures remain among the 112 acres of grapevines.

The estate maintains an active apiary—all the more important after so many wine country hives were lost in the fall fires. The bees pollinate the entire landscape, including the highly productive one-acre chef’s garden that produces much of the bounty for the culinary program.

Wines at the table

Chef Todd Knoll of Jordan WineryIn keeping with the Old World style of the wines, Jordan holds the philosophy that wine requires food and vice versa. The winery hosts a lot of dinner parties and culinary events as well as offering some limited food with wine tastings. We visited for a special buffet lunch, and feel pretty confident stating that Chef Todd Knoll is a pairing genius. He prepared a beautiful beet salad of mixed red and golden beets and roasted a loin of lamb to accentuate the dark fruit of the 2008 Cabernet. A pomengranate with fresh honeycomb highlighted the stone fruits—and the austere Chablis-like minerality—of the 2015 Chardonnay. The mix of Marcona almonds, estate-cured green olives, and local charcuterie rounded out the bright flavors of the 2013 Cabernet.

At the end of the meal, Knoll sent out a dessert that really spoke of place. Jordan maintains 18 acres of olive trees and presses its own luscious olive oil. The Italian Frantoio, Leccino, and Pendolino olives give the oil grassy, green-almond flavors while the Spanish Arbequina olives make it round and buttery. The olive oil cake topped with olive oil ice cream was the perfect conclusion to a taste of Jordan. The winery was kind enough to share both recipes (below).

Jordan olive oil cake and ice cream


Vanilla extract can be substituted for the vanilla bean, but the bean does give the cake a richer flavor. Made without butter or baking soda, this recipe produces a light and fluffy cake.

Serves 8


2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
half a lemon, zested
half a lemon, juiced
3 vanilla beans, scraped (1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract may be substituted)
7 ounces Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 cup sugar, divided in half
7/8 cup cake flour, sifted*
3 egg whites, room temperature

*All-purpose flour may be substituted, but will produce a slightly more dense cake.


Preheat oven to 350℉ (325℉ for convection).

Prepare 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and a round parchment liner on the bottom.

Whisk together egg yolks, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla beans, olive oil, and half of the sugar. Sift the flour into the mixture in three stages. Set aside.

Using a standing mixer, whisk egg whites on high. Once egg whites begin to foam, slowly stream in the remaining half of the sugar, adding up to one tablespoon at a time. Whip the meringue until white, thick and shiny.

Fold one third of the meringue into the batter. Repeat until all the meringue is incorporated evenly, then pour cake batter into the prepared springform pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife or spatula around the edge and remove the side of the springform pan. Allow to cool for an hour, then remove the bottom of the pan and peel off parchment.

Cut into eight slices, dust with powdered sugar, top with fresh cut strawberries, whipped cream or Jordan Olive Oil Ice Cream. Drizzle with Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil and serve.


Serve a scoop of this ice cream on the olive oil cake—or serve it alone with a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of Jordan olive oil.

Makes 1 quart


1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil


In a medium saucepan, heat milk, cream, sugar and salt over medium heat until the mixture reaches a slow boil.

In a medium bowl, temper the eggs by slowly whisking half of the hot liquid into the yolks. Slowly whisk the hot liquid and egg mixture back into the saucepan. With the heat on low, continue whisking until the ice cream base thickens slightly.

Using a chinoise or fine strainer, strain the base into a medium bowl set directly over an ice bath. Stir in olive oil.

Allow the base to cool completely (or refrigerate overnight for a creamier texture). Spin in an ice cream machine, following the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer ice cream to an air-tight container and freeze for 3-4 hours, or until firm.


12 2017