Monthly Archives: August 2012

BBQ Favorites for Labor Day

Oh, how we at Parker Sanpei & Associates love a good BBQ – especially when the local produce is at its peak!  Labor Day weekend is upon us, and there is no better time to fire up the grill with delectable dishes that make the most of this abundant season.  Here are two tasty menus to inspire you.

Menu #1: Grilled Spicy Skirt Steak, Smothered Yellow Squash with Basil, Heirloom Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese (All care of

Grilled Spicy Skirt Steak

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.

Yield: Serves 2 generously

  • a 3/4- to 1-pound skirt steak, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Cut steak into large pieces to fit on a grill or in a ridged grill pan. In a small bowl stir together chili powder, cumin, garlic paste, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, pepper, allspice, and oil and rub all over meat. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.  Preheat grill. Grill steak on a well-oiled rack set about 4 inches over glowing coals or in hot well-seasoned ridged grill pan over moderately high heat 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until just springy to touch, for medium-rare meat. Let steak stand on a cutting board 5 minutes and cut across grain on the diagonal into thin slices.

Smothered Yellow Squash with Basil

Active time: 15 min Start to finish: 30 min

Yield: Makes 4 servings

  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lb medium yellow squash, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add half of squash and sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer browned squash to a bowl, then heat remaining tablespoon oil and sauté remaining squash in same manner. Return squash in bowl to skillet. Add garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Add water, salt, and pepper and simmer briskly, covered, until squash is tender and most of liquid is evaporated, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in basil.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings

8 1/2-inch-thick slices crusty bread

  • 4 large garlic cloves, halved
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup currant or grape tomatoes or halved cherry or pear tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 10 medium heirloom tomatoes of assorted colors, cored, thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, sliced paper-thin
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced thin on diagonal
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled blue cheese

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Rub bread with cut garlic halves; brush bread with 3 tablespoons oil. Combine remaining 1/3 cup oil, currant tomatoes, and green onions in medium bowl; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Overlap tomato slices in concentric circles on platter, alternating colors. Scatter onion and celery slices over tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon tomato and green onion mixture over. Sprinkle with crumbled cheese. Grill bread until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Cut each slice diagonally in half; serve with salad.

Menu #2: Pancetta Cheeseburgers, Tomato, Basil and White Bean Salad, Balsamic Mushrooms (All care of Martha Stewart Living)

Pancetta Cheeseburgers

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 thin slices pancetta
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground chuck
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ounces fontina cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 hamburger buns, toasted if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pancetta on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, flipping the slices halfway through, until crisp, about 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Meanwhile, using your hands, combine ground chuck, salt, chili powder, and paprika in a bowl, and season with pepper. Shape into 4 patties (about 4 inches in diameter). Preheat grill to medium. (If you are using a charcoal grill, coals are ready when you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill for just 5 to 6 seconds.) Grill burgers 4 to 5 minutes. Flip burgers, and top with cheese. Grill 3 to 4 minutes more for medium-rare. Remove, and let rest 5 minutes. Top burgers with pancetta, and serve on buns.

White Bean, Tomato, and Basil Salad

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

  • 2 cans (19 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 pound small roma (plum) tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 small garlic cloves, minced

Combine beans, tomatoes, basil, and salt in a bowl, and season with pepper. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Pour over bean mixture, and gently toss. Let stand 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. Salad can be covered and kept at room temperature up to 4 hours.

Balsamic Mushrooms

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 12 ounces white mushrooms, halved (quartered if large)
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar, salt, and red-pepper flakes, and season with pepper. Cook 1 minute more. Transfer to a bowl, and serve.


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An AgriTourist’s Dream Come True

Devoted seekers of the freshest sustainably-farmed fruits and vegetables, meats, oils, cheeses, and even wines will be hard-pressed to find a more abundant region than Paso Robles Wine Country.  With its grand vistas of golden hills framed by gnarled live oaks and cut through by the lazy Salinas River, Paso Robles has been known as a fertile land since the heyday of the Chumash people.  Today, many farms welcome visitors to explore their property, learn what goes into cultivating their products, and taste the riches of their bounty.  Here are just a few:

Pomar Junction Vineyard

Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery is owned and operated by the Merrill Family, whose roots on California’s Central Coast go back nine generations.  From its position on the outskirts of the Paso Robles American Viticulture Area, the Merrill Family sustainably farms nearly 100 acres of estate vineyards and olive trees, which the public is welcome to explore.  On tours, owner Dana Merrill hops into the driver’s seat of his tractor and pulls a gondola that can hold several guests on an excursion through the property, where he highlights the wildlife that make their home in the vineyard, the wide range of soil types beneath the surface, and the nuances of climate – all of which influence Pomar Junction’s wines.  The winery also invites members of their Parlour Wine Club wito bring their horses, saddle up and ride across the property, optimally in the late afternoon when the landscape is at its most golden.  After an afternoon of touring the vineyards, whether by tractor or on horseback, the perfect finish is to sip a glass of sustainably-produced Pomar Junction wine on their patio, beneath an ancient oak tree.  For more information about Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery, call 805.238.9944, or visit

Lunch at Mt. Olive Organic Farm

Offering tours that highlight its dedication to organic principles, Mt. Olive Organic Farm is a sustainably-operated farm that strives to offer foods which benefit both customers and the environment from which they originate.  Mt. Olive is free from all chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and synthetic fertilizers, which makes for deliciously natural olives, oils, eggs, grains, and produce.  Tours are free and cover the fruit garden, sprout house, open garden, greenhouse, herb garden, and earthworm beds, and presentations on the uses and benefits of efficient microbes are also available.  Before or after the tour, guests can visit the Mt. Olive Organic Market, where they can purchase fruits, vegetables, fresh bread and eggs, taste olives and olive oils, peruse all-natural supplements and body care products, and even order sandwiches and boxed lunches from the on-site café.  For more information or to schedule a tour, please call 805.237.0147 or visit

Goats at Happy Acres Family Farm

With over 200 goats and four different breeds, Happy Acres Family Farm is an established goat dairy that prides itself on producing all-natural, hormone-free goat milk, and invites the public to gain hands-on experience on the farm.  On each tour, owner Stephanie Simonin and family teach guests how to milk the goats (while highlighting the milk’s unique uses and nutritional benefits) and then how to make cheese from it, which each guest is able to take home with them.  Guides describe what goes into making the farm’s handmade, all-natural cheese, ice cream, lotion, soap and other skincare products, all of which are available for sample.  Happy Acres is an ideal destination for the whole family, as children can bottle-feed newborn goats, join in the milking contest, and mingle with miniature horses and other friendly farm animals.  Tours last 90 minutes to two hours, and are available by appointment only by calling 805.434.7580.

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Cars, glamour, and Pebble Beach: Concours d’Elegance

In just a few hours from now, celebrities, tycoons, and the world’s luxury class will descend on Carmel for the greatest “car show” on the planet: the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

’38 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic coupe

Founded in 1950, the Concours is  the culmination of a week-long celebration of all things classic car.  Technically, it’s a competition (that’s what the French word concours actually means) judged on the authenticity, functionality, and overall panache of the vehicles involved.  Hence the patronage of “the other half!”  It doesn’t hurt that the event is held on what Golf Digest ranks as the #1 Greatest Public Golf Course in America, the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

’36 Avions Voisin

It is tough to overstate the sheer indulgence of this event.  According to estimates, the cost of the vehicles spread across the 18th fairway at the 2006 event was $200 million.  Notable attendees and competitors include Ralph Lauren, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Nicholas Cage, as well as businessmen Rob Walton (Wal-Mart Stores), Peter S. Kalikow (real estate), Otis Chandler (publishing) and Bruce McCaw (communications).

Ralph Lauren

But it’s their cars – a ’38 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic coupe, a Lamborghini Miura SV once owned by the shah of Iran, a ’36 Avions Voisin and ’25 Hispano-Suiza – that get all the attention.

General admission tickets to the Concours d’Elegance are $200 in advance ($250 on day of show), and available for purchase at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance website.

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Do-It-Yourself Wine Accoutrements

We at Parker Sanpei & Associates love a) wine and b) a good project.  Hence our obsession with Pinterest and all the fun DIY crafty wine ideas.  Here is a handful of our favorites.  Why not hit up the hardware store on your way home tonight?

Decorative Wine Stoppers

Cork + vintage drawer pull = adorable (and practical!) gift.  Oh, that Martha Stewart…

Wine Bottle Chandelier

For a really pretty effect, collect differently shaped and colored bottles to hang.

Wine Cork Coasters

A fun and simple way to re-use corks.  Just a suggestion: leave your 2 Buck Chuck corks in the recycle bin.

Burlap Wine Bags

Joy in a bag?  No question.  We also like the idea of stenciling a giftee’s name directly on the bag, so as to avoid confusion over who gets to drink it.

Wine Rack

Modern, funky, and oh-so-easy to make, this wine rack made from PVC pipes gets major points for its style and simpicity.

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Worth celebrating: Twenty years of Monterey Wine Country.

Want to experience the best wines Monterey County has to offer and rub elbows with the winemakers? The 20th Annual Winemakers’ Celebration is for you.

On Saturday, August 11th from 1 to 4pm, over 40 wineries will pour over 150 wines at the outdoor summer festival.  Hosted by the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association (MCVGA), the event will be held at the newly expanded Barnyard Shopping Village outdoor event area in Carmel.  The event sold out in 2011 and this milestone anniversary is certain to generate enthusiasm for the growing wine region.

Nine American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) make up the world-class designation of Monterey County, including Monterey, Santa Lucia Highlands, Arroyo Seco, San Lucas, Hames Valley, Chalone, Carmel Valley, San Antonio Valley, and San Bernabe. The region’s 200 vineyards run from the cooler north, heavily influenced from the Monterey Bay, to the warmer southern end, influenced by late afternoon winds and resulting cool temperatures later in the day.  At the Winemakers’ Celebration, vintners and growers will be on hand to discuss their craft and showcase how 42 varietals flourish in this singular winegrowing region.

The Winemakers’ Celebration festivities will include:

  • Meet-the-winemaker opportunities in an exclusive tasting of Monterey wines
  • Culinary samples from international restaurants located in the Barnyard Shopping Village
  • Dancing to local blues favorite Red Beans & Rice
  • Beautiful and informative displays on the winemaking process
  • The bidding excitement of a silent auction including numerous lifestyle packages, special wine items, photo sessions, hotel stays, restaurant gift certificates, and more
  • A “Try & Buy Marketplace” where featured wineries and restaurants will offer guests special pricing to be enjoyed the day of the celebration and beyond

Red Beans & Rice

Guests will indulge in great local food from the Barnyard restaurants, including: Pieces of Heaven, Lugano Swiss Bistro, From Scratch, Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria, Carmel Coffee Roasters, Bahama Island Steakhouse, Erik’s Deli Café and Flanagan’s Café. Vendors will include Chris’s Stuff, Pueblo Bonito, De Castro Family Olive Oil Company and Emi’s Biscotteria.

Tickets for the 20th Annual Winemakers’ Celebration are available online at or by calling 831.375.9400.  $35 in advance / $45 day of event / $15 Designated Driver.

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