I hadn't been living in California for very long before I felt compelled visit wine country — a common side effect when one has only ever lived in northern climes and sunshine is a novelty. I was not disappointed. It's impossible to visit any California vineyard and not fall in love with the orderly rows of grape vines stretching to touch the distant hills, or the way food tastes when eaten outside in March, or yes, of course, the wine. If you want a little glimpse of what an afternoon in wine country feels like, specifically an afternoon in the Central Coast's "new" wine country, pick up this book and prepare to be transported.
• Who wrote it: Brigit Binns
• Who published it: Andrews McMeel Universal
• Number of recipes: About 120
• Recipes for right now: Sheep's Cheese Gougères, Black Olive and Pine Nut Biscotti, Radicchio and Monterey Jack Quesadillas, Orrecchiette with Fava Beans and Prosciutto, Rosé and Lemon Verbena Granita, Ginger Flan with Ripe Apricots, Petrale Sole with Pinot Noir Butter Sauce, Seared Baby Lamb Chops in a Sea of Green
• Other highlights: The vision that Brigit Binns gives us of California's Central Coast is about equal part golden-hued nostalgia and equal part fresh-faced modern, and it sounds like this is pretty accurate. This area is the "new" wine country — it's not Napa or Sonoma or even Tuscany, and the wine makers are fine with that. They're taking risks with grapes and new wine-making styles, and gaining attention for their innovation.
But at the same time, because this isn't Napa or Sonoma, there's a feeling of Wild West in this area and the attitude of its farmers. This area has a very long farming tradition with families that have been working the land in one way or another for generations. Binns calls it "Tuscany with cowboys."
The recipes reflect this feeling of blending the old and the new. They are made with fresh ingredients local to the Central Coast (which, admittedly, could fill a Whole Foods) and feel on par with the inspired dishes we'd find in any hip and trendy restaurant. But they also draw on Mediterranean culinary traditions, making them feel familiar, slightly careworn, and deeply comforting. A wine pairing accompanies each recipe, one from California and one from places "Further Afield" like Italy and Austria, which even further underscores this balance.
Don't skip over the profiles of the wineries and family farms. These give us a glimpse into the people who make up the true character of this region — and give us a few travel destinations for the summer!
• Who would enjoy this book? Wine lovers and cooks who love pairing food and wine, Californians and those who love visiting our fair state
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: The New Wine Country Cookbook by Brigit Binns
• Visit the author's website: Brigit Binns
This post was requested by Angela! for Reader Request Week 2013.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Emma Christensen)