Monthly Archives: February 2014

New hot spot in downtown Paso Robles

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Our friends at Burbank Ranch Winery & Bistro in downtown Paso Robles recently held a Grand Opening Celebration for the books. From 5:00 until well into the evening, the comfortable tasting room and bistro at 1240 Park Street was packed bumper-to-bumper with nearly 200 foodies and wine lovers eager to taste Chef Nicholas Nolan’s passed appetizers paired with the winery’s award-winning, globally-inspired wines.

Small bites included salmon cakes with crème fraiche and Meyer lemon, shrimp fritters with avocado, fried pork belly with white bean puree and poached apple, and delectable lamb meatballs with eggplant jam, roasted tomatoes and green olives.

Burbank Ranch Owners, Fred and Melody Burbank, welcomed guests and spoke during ribbon cuttings with the Templeton, Paso Robles, and Atascadero Chambers of Commerce.

Congratulations to all involved in getting Burbank Ranch Winery & Bistro off the ground and flying high!


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An unBARRELeled opportunity.

Many wine lovers have no idea what an enormous impact oak barrels make on their favorite brands and styles. Distinctions between the influence of American, French, and Hungarian, neutral and new oak are just the beginning. Coopers and winemakers can choose wood from a specific forest, or even a specific section of a forest for their barrels, if they want to go as granular as that, but most don’t have the time or resources.

Kevin Sass, the winemaker for Halter Ranch in Paso Robles, is passionate about cooperage, and wants to share an opportunity for wine lovers to taste the same wine as its aged in several different barrels. He’ll be leading a session at the upcoming WiVi Symposium and Trade Show, sponsored by Wine Business Monthly, on March 19 at the Paso Robles Event Center. Read on to discover more about this unique tasting, and to purchase tickets at early bird discount pricing if you purchase tickets by March 1.

Kevin Sass

Kevin Sass

Every winemaker would love the opportunity to taste their wine aged in 16 types of oak but few have the time or the resources to conduct such an experiment. At WiVi Central Coast 2014, winemakers can experience the next best thing by attending the Halter Ranch Barrel Cooper Comparison & Tasting session with Halter Ranch winemaker, Kevin Sass, taking place on March 19 at the Paso Robles Event Center.

Sass built an experiment designed to look at the same wine from three different perspectives for three different wines in the Halter Ranch program. Like most winemakers, Sass said he doesn’t have the time to get involved in the intricate details of what coopers are doing, like researching what types of barrels are coming from different forests—he relies on his cooper’s sales reps for that information. He makes his winemaking decisions based on how the barrel impacts the taste of the wine and this unique experiment allows him to taste the difference.

During the session, you’ll find out the steps Sass took to build an effective experiment and learn about his philosophic approach. You’ll then have the unique opportunity to taste seven wines comparing cooperages with the same 2012 Halter Ranch estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sass said that even though every winemaker has their own style, they’ll learn something from the tasting. There is no additional charge for this tasting but there is limited seating available so be sure to register early and secure your spot.

“Every winemaker is different and how they make their wines are different but there’s no question: they’ll definitely take something from it,” Sass said. “They can taste what they do and don’t like and get an idea of what each barrel is giving to the wine.”

As a follow up to this session, Wine Business Monthly will be publishing an article about the details of Sass’ barrel trials in the May issue.

Kevin Sass joined Halter Ranch in 2011 after 11 years with Justin Winery, where he quickly moved from intern to winemaker. During this time he worked closely with many neighboring vineyards including Halter Ranch. Sass is a Southern California native. He grew up in Agoura Hills and graduated from California State University, Fresno with a double major in enology wine production and agricultural business.

“I am excited to be involved in the continuation of this amazing long-term project at Halter Ranch. My previous experience with the Halter Ranch estate fruit, combined with a new, state of the art facility, will allow me to showcase what this ranch has to offer” said Sass.

Other tastings at WiVi include the regional tasting, which is included with the trade show ticket, and the Comparative Tasting of Grenache, which requires a special ticket.

Early bird pricing ends March 1, so get your tickets today. Register here.

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Favorite Wine Country Wedding Caterers

We at Parker Sanpei have noticed a trend in wedding catering over the past several years. With the nation’s heightened interest in all things culinary, many caterers have stepped up their game to turn weddings into mini food and wine festivals. Whether it’s the wild blackberry and elder flower signature cocktail, the candy bar, or the freshest sushi you’ve ever tasted, caterers are pushing the limits of what we understand as wedding fare. Here, we present a few California wine country wedding caterers who are changing the game.

Healthy and Delicious: Culinary Eye, San Francisco

This Bay Area caterer is known for going above and beyond the call of duty with cuisine that’s not only delicious, but nutritious as well. Founded by Chefs Collins Anderson and John Silva, Culinary Eye has made a point of seeking out the most sumptuous ways to make health a priority in their menus, with options for all-organic menus and food sensitivities. Sample menu items include

  • Pepper-Whipped Goat Cheese Tartlets
  • Yuzu-Dressed Microgreens
  • Chili-Ginger Glazed Scallops

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Wild and Free: Thomas Hill Organics, Paso Robles

Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar is known for crafting incredible, inventive dishes from primarily organic, local ingredients, and that philosophy certainly carries over into their catering department. Owner Debbie Thomas is known for encouraging her chefs’ imaginations to run wild, with creative, flavorful dishes like

  • Jerk Pork Slider, Fried Banana and Onion, Citrus-Ale Barbecue Sauce, Chive Crème Fraiche
  • Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut, Roasted Baby Beets, Macerated Strawberries, Pickled Watermelon, Coconut Cream

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Fun and Interactive: OMNI Catering and Events, Santa Barbara

OMNI takes wedding catering to the -enth degree with its signature stations, which provide guests with a fun and interactive way to “build your own” pho, grilled cheese, schwarma, or quesadilla. Or, for the ultimate culinary experience (provided while the wedding party takes photos, perhaps?) opt for OMNI’s fresh mozzarella bar, in which OMNI chefs make fresh mozzarella in front of guests to pair with a buffet of gourmet oils, vinegars and salt, or craft their own caprese salad. Can you say YUM?!?

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Our favorite food/bev projects right now.

The food and beverage industry is growing, changing, and trend-setting in ways none of us could have imagined even a few years ago. Below, a few of Parker Sanpei’s favorite new endeavors.

Neighborhood Vineyards Project

alemany-1Neighborhood Vineyards is a project to revive San Francisco’s wine-making past by sprinkling the city with community vineyards. In the late 1800’s, San Francisco’s citizen’s began a bold experiment to find grape varieties suited to the state’s many micro-climates. They planted large swaths of vines around the city, kept loving records of their yields and began a journey in wine-making that was cut short by the earthquake and subsequent fire of the early 20th century.

We have humbly taken it upon ourselves to continue this voyage by creating a patchwork of vineyards in small spaces around the city. Our first 1/2 acre vineyard was planted in July of 2013 at Alemany Farm off Highway 280, thanks to the dedication and generosity of many dear friends and cheerleaders.

We must wait together for another three years to sample our city’s terroir. But despair not, dear wine-o-naut, for we journey together. Anticipation of our first vintage need not be agony. We have thoughtfully prepared a flight of wines to comfort you while you wait for the first truly San Franciscan wine in 100 years.


Ember Restaurant, Arroyo Grande, California

Building progress on Ember Restaurant

Building progress on Ember Restaurant

Brian Collins grew up in Arroyo Grande, but would later go on to work at Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos and Lido in Shell Beach. Oh yeah, and he also worked for five years at a little place you may have heard of in Berkeley: Chez Panisse. But now he’s back in Arroyo Grande with his very own Ember Restaurant at the corner of Brisco Road and Grand Avenue (in the old Lemos Feed and Pet Supply building), a gorgeous space that serves up Mediterranean cuisine with casual California charm. 1200 East Grand Avenue, Arroyo Grande, California, 93420.


Giorgio Pelissero, Barbaresco producer and partner with VinConnect

Giorgio Pelissero, Barbaresco producer and partner with VinConnect

VinConnect works closely with many leading European wineries to create and manage mailing list and club programs that enable U.S. customers like you to buy wine directly from them (through us).

Each winery has its own mailing list, and offers the wines it selects at the frequency it chooses.  Following your order, your wine is then transferred to the U.S., forwarded along to our warehouse and shipped on to you.

Our mission at VinConnect is to enable American consumers with a passion for Old World wines to connect with and purchase directly from many of Europe’s best estates. This pursuit has received an incredibly positive response from both wineries and consumers alike, and VinConnect has rapidly gone from a flash of an idea into an international business, with dozens of winery partners connected to more than 1000 passionate consumers. The press has noticed as well, with recent profiles in publications such as Bloomberg, The Washington Post and the Huffington Post driving growth on a daily basis.


Dinner Lab

dinnerlabDinner Lab is a membership-based social dining experiment that unites undiscovered chefs with adventurous diners who are looking for something different from the traditional restaurant experience. Whether it happens on the roof of an abandoned building, the floor of a paper mill, or inside a motorcycle dealership, we believe that good people, good food and good drink are the only elements paramount to a memorable meal.


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Romantic Dinner for One

Don’t get us wrong: We at Parker Sanpei love Valentine’s Day. But not everyone appreciates the romantic reminder of a cozy little bistro with tables set for two, particularly if they’re single, by choice or otherwise. A theme we come back to, time and again, is the beauty of solo experiences. So, while love may or may not be in the air, why not embrace the notion of “me time” with a romantic dinner menu for one? Grab a glass of wine (suggestions below), turn up the music, and craft yourself a gorgeous one-plate wonder this Valentine’s Day. And don’t forget to set the table; eating this dinner over the sink is strictly forbidden!

All recipes serve one.

Pepper-Crusted Fillet with Port-Cherry Reduction and Blue Cheese-Chive Butter

Pepper-Crusted Fillet with Port-Cherry Reduction and Blue Cheese-Chive Butter

Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon with Port-Cherry Reduction and Blue Cheese Chive Butter
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

For steak:

  • 1 tablespoons black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 center-cut filets mignons, 2 inches thick, 7-8 ounces, trimmed of fat and silver skin

Heat the peppercorns and 1 tablespoon oil in a small saucepan over low heat until faint bubbles appear. Continue to cook at a bare simmer, swirling the pan occasionally, until the pepper is fragrant, 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. When the mixture is at room temperature, add the salt and stir to combine. Rub the steak with the pepper mixture, thoroughly coating the top and bottom with the peppercorns. Cover the steak with plastic wrap and press gently to make sure the peppercorns adhere; let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the oven rack, and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat the remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until faint smoke appears. Place the steak in the skillet and cook, without moving, until a dark brown crust has formed, 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn the steak and cook until well browned on the second side, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the steak to the hot baking sheet. Roast 3 to 5 minutes for rare, 5 to 7 minutes for medium-rare to medium. Transfer the steak to a wire cooling rack and let rest, loosely tented with foil, for 5 minutes before serving.

For Port-cherry reduction:

  • 1/2 cups port
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 large shallot, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Salt

Combine the first five ingredients in a medium saucepan; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is reduced to one-third, about 20 minutes. Set aside, covered. While the steak is resting, reheat the sauce. Off the heat, remove the thyme, then whisk in the butter until melted. Season with salt to taste. Serve drizzled over the steak.

For blue cheese-chive butter:

  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled mild blue cheese, room temperature
  • pinch
  • 2 teaspoons minced chives minced chives

Combine the butter, cheese, and salt in a medium bowl and mix with a stiff rubber spatula until smooth. Fold in the chives. While the steaks are resting, spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons butter on each one.

Wine Ideas: 

Gaja BaroloIf you’re going to put the effort into cooking up this delectable meal for yourself, please, we beg you, don’t skimp on the wine. Valentine’s Day is all about love, and if you really love yourself, match this flavorful filet mignon with a dark, brooding wine. Fine pairings might include:

  • Bandol AOC – a French wine from a region in Provence, mostly made from the Mourvedre grape
  • Barossa Shiraz – Wine made from Shiraz grapes in South Australia
  • Barolo DOCG – an Italian wine from the Piedmont region, mostly made from the Nebbiolo grape
  • Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon – California Cabernet Sauvignon from any one of our friends at the Paso Robles CAB Collective.
Potatoes Anna

Potatoes Anna

Potatoes Anna
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food

  • 1 medium russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Using a food processor with a slicing blade or a sharp knife, slice potato as thinly as possible, 1/4 inch thick or thinner. (Do not place sliced potato in water; the starch is needed to bind the layers.).

Brush bottom of a small skillet with just enough butter to cover. Starting in center of pan, arrange potato slices, slightly overlapping, in circular pattern, covering surface. Brush with more butter; season well with salt and pepper. Repeat for two more layers.

Place over high heat until butter in pan sizzles, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer to oven; bake until potatoes are fork-tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Run a small spatula around edges of skillet; slide large spatula underneath potatoes to loosen. Carefully invert onto a plate, and cut into wedges.

Classic Caesar Salad

Classic Caesar Salad

Classic Caesar Salad
Adapted from Bon Appetit

For dressing (makes enough for leftovers):

  • 1 garlic clove
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
  • pepper

Mash garlic and a pinch of salt into a paste, then scrape into a medium bowl. Whisk in lemon juice and Dijon. Adding drop by drop to start, gradually whisk in olive oil, then vegetable oil; whisk until dressing is thick and glossy. Whisk in Parmesan. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Can be made 1 day ahead.

For croutons:

  • 1/2 cup torn 1-inch pieces country bread
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • pepper

Toss bread with oil on a baking sheet; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake at 375°, tossing occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.

For salad:

  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce
  • croutons
  • dressing
  • shaved Parmesan
Nutella Mug Cake

Nutella Mug Cake

Nutella Mug Cake
Adapted from Eclectic Recipes

  • 4 tablespoons self-rising flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons Nutella
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large coffee mug. Whisk well with a fork until smooth. Microwave on high for 1½ minutes. Meanwhile, add heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium-high speed until almost stiff. Add sugar and beat until heavy cream forms stiff peaks. Top Mug Cakes with whipped cream and a little chocolate sauce, if desired.

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