Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Roasted quince, pear and apple tart

For my dear friends and owners of a mature quince tree, I'm including here a recipe for a roasted quince, pear and apple tart. Karen and Bob have shared their Carneros quince with us for several years. Our young quince tree set many fruit this year, but I had to pinch most of them off so that they would not break the spindly branches. In a few years it will be as sturdy as the persimmon tree we planted by the dining room windows.

I found a recipe on Epicurious for a roasted pear, apple and quince crostada. Unfortunately, each piece has 923 calories, and the recipe uses three sticks of butter and over one and one-half cups of sugar. I changed the shell and the filling and made them gluten free.

Here's the adapted recipe.

Roasted quince, pear and apple tart

Roasted fruit
2 quince, washed, cored
2 firm pears, washed and cored
2 firm apples, washed and cored
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick, broken
4-6 whole cloves
2 Tbsp. Lucero Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar
dash salt

Tart shell
1 1/2 cups packed almond meal flour
4 Tbsp. butter, melted, cooled
3 Tbsp. sugar (or ginger flavored sugar)
2 Tbsp. ice water

Almond filling
1 cup almond paste
1/4 cup egg whites (about 2 large eggs)
dash freshly ground cinnamon

Sugar topping
1 1/2 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash, quarter and core quince, apples and pears, then cut in  one inch chunks. Toss with lemon juice, sugar, ginger, cinnamon stick, cloves and balsamic vinegar in a bowl. Transfer to large shallow baking pan, and roast, stirring once or twice, until fruit is soft and caramelized - about 1 to 1/14 hours. Remove from oven, cool on rack (about 30-45 minutes), discard cinnamon and cloves.

Meanwhile, make tart shell. Mix almond meal, sugar, butter, and ice water with fork till mixture clings together. Press into 8 inch tart pan and up sides.

In food processor, mix almond paste, egg whites and cinnamon till light and fluffy.

For sugar topping, mix Turbinado sugar and sea salt in small bowl.

Assemble tart by spreading the almond filling in the tart shell, arranging the cooled fruit over the filling, and sprinkling the sugar topping over the fruit filling.

Bake on baking sheet till filling is slightly puffed and fruit filling begins to brown. This should be about one hour. Cool to warm, remove side of tart pan, and place on serving plate.

The very best accompaniment is Tahitian Vanilla ice cream from the recipe of Goitsemedeme Booq, cook for Mrs. Constantine Nurt at her estate in Napa, Gottalottaguapo.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bernese Mountain lap dog

Jackie the Bernese Mountain Dog continues to grow. With large breed dogs, the changes are not gradual, they are instant. She is too big for me to pick up any longer. From her first days home at 18 pounds, she has grown to over 60 pounds at 7 1/2 months.

Jackie at 10 weeks

Jackie the lap dog, 7 1/2 months, photo by John Poole

A little snuggle, please? She's still a puppy and only about 2/3 grown. We spent the day harvesting and crushing grapes last weekend. She was denied her constant daily attention while we were out in the vineyard. (Grapes can be toxic for dogs.) She is hoping to be the next winery dog, though there are several dogs in the wine group. This one could actually pull a cart loaded with grapes some day.

Here's a video of her right after she arrived. She is meeting the neighbors and Otto, an almost record breaking Great Dane.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Time for Puppies

It's time for puppies in our little corner of Napa. Jasmine, the wonderful Lab/Aussie companion of 12 1/2 years passed away right before the New Year. Our new little Bernese Mountain Dog "Jackie" has been learning how to be a good dog.

Jackie the Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, 6 months old
She is now 7 months old and is eager to work! Here is a little video of her doing her first job. This little 18 second video had more response on my facebook page than anything in recent memory.
She is eager to please, and eager to work. Praise, little treats and the joy of hearing "good job!" seem to be all the motivation she needs. She is starting to bring me my slippers so we can get the day going each day. What a pleasure to have her in our lives!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Napa Porchfest

I'm still decompressing from the third annual Napa Porchfest held last Sunday, July 28. This is a labor of love for our dedicated committee, which is a standing committee of Napa County Landmarks, Inc.

Napa Porchfest 2013

 We had over 4,000 people who wandered in our Old Town neighborhoods listening to over 80
musical groups performing on 47 porches between 1 and 6 pm. Planning starts in January and goes till event day. It's a solid six month volunteer commitment. I'm a founder and chair of the event, so a lot of unusual tasks come my way. Things like making the map, being webmaster, crunching all the data, social networking, picking up T-shirts. The T-shirts are great, and co-chair Thea sold hundreds of them. Thea also has the massive task of coordinating music for all the porches. Others on the committee coordinate volunteers, handle logistics, and media and public relations. We even have a committee member who coordinates food trucks - added this year to the line-up.
Porchfest T-shirts disappear at the food truck round-up
I was inundated with texts and calls from the "hot spots", but snapped a few pictures on the run. Churchill Manor was the largest and most elegant venue we've had yet - beautiful lawn to sit on, expansive two-story porch, and great music. Everyone played for FREE, even these seasoned professionals.   
Jimmy Smith Band at Porchfest                

 There was one report of a badly stubbed toe, and one reported bee sting. As the person in charge I am greatly relieved!
Porchfest 2013 at Churchill Manor
As the afternoon waned, this idyllic spot beckoned. One of these years, when the event is well established and we really know what we are doing, I'll bring a blanket and sit right here. All this came from a conversation on Facebook. Don't believe the pundits who crow that Social Media is a waste of time. Napa is all the richer for it.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Napa Fourth of July

Our Fourth of July starts with the hometown parade at 10 am. I rode my bike with the Napa Rotary Club and the Pathway Home serving Veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. No pictures, as I did want to carry the camera on the parade route. Some pictures have been tagged on Facebook.

Last evening, Jackie the Bernese Mountain dog puppy experienced her first fireworks when the booms from the annual Silverado Country Club July 3 event. There was lots of barking.
This evening, the fireworks just started - and she is woofing and sitting on my foot.

In the early evening we had the flag salute and "flag wave" at Veterans Park.

July 4, 2013 Flag wave in Napa      

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bernese Mountain Dogs found in the garden

April 18 was the long awaited day that we received our new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy - Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis Robinson - known as "Jackie". Her breeder from Oregon was taking Jackie's sister to a family in Hollywood, so was able to bring Jackie to us and stay over night in Napa. Along for the ride were two of Jackie's half-siblings. They are puppies themselves, but the size difference is enormous.

We have been house training, crate training, getting up in the night like parents of a new infant, and struggling with sleep deprivation. There's a reason young people have children and grandparents get to go home at a reasonable hour.

Juliana and Jackie the Bernese puppy

John is so happy to have another dog "talking" in the family again.

John and Jackie the Bernese Mountain Dog
Along with the new puppy in the garden, we had a splendid but brief iris/peony/rose season. A heat wave in April taught us that even Bernese Mountain Dog puppies are very sensitive to the heat. Jackie enjoys "spritz baths" with a small sprayer to cool off on those 90+ degree days. Unfortunately, the flowers all bloomed out in record time.

Anna at the Fox Cottage
Anna came by to visit the puppy and see some of the roses. Spring was short, now summer is here!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

garden tour

After another long afternoon in the garden, it seems an opportune time to share the early fruits of John's labor over the past few months. Along with John's cutting up and milling of a 70 year old redwood tree, we have been tending the peonies, bulbs, irises, roses and fruit trees in the yard. John is a collector. Now we even have a collection of Michelia - members of the Magnolia family.

Michelia sp.

We encountered a Michelia on our wedding trip. The large creamy flowers masked the possible "off odors" of a bathroom building at an arboretum. We were both captivated by the tree.

Along with the Michelia, we have been planting herbaceous, Itoh hybrid and tree peonies. Our concerns about lack of sufficient winter chilling to support peonies may be unfounded. All the newly planted (fall) plants have sprouted, and almost all have buds. These three tree peonies have been in our yard for several years, and seem to be thriving.

tree peony

tree peony

We planted blueberries in wine barrels so that we could control the acidity of the soil. It looks like fruit is setting.


Also in wine barrels are herbs.

variegated sage

basil in the herb garden

old camelia

tulips and lilacs



early rose, Joseph's coat

sour cherries in bloom

Queen Elizabeth

John feeding the peonies

John feeds the plants weird concoctions such as fish emulsion and epsom salts. It appears to be working.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Winery Architecture

We had a recent opportunity to go "over the hill" to Sonoma County to visit a new winery. A favorite architectural firm, Backen Gillam & Kroeger Architects designed the new facility located on the site of a previous unremarkable structure.

Ramsgate tasting room

The main Ramsgate tasting room features a soaring ceiling with exposed steel trusses and window walls that open for expansive views. To the east is Mount Diablo.

Mt. Diablo

Ramsgate courtyard
An inner courtyard with fireplace and seating areas is sheltered from the westerly prevailing winds.

The eastern window/wall opens like a garage door in warm weather, but is closed during the winter chill.
Ramsgate window wall

Food and wine pairings are elegant and well balanced. We were attending a small birthday gathering for a friend who also lives in Napa.
Food and wine pairings

The ambiance is young, fresh and aesthetically appealing. We were perhaps a few years beyond the target age demographic!
Ramsgate Winery