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Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches


Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches

This recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches starts out strangely. That’s because I want you to put the cookies in the freezer and the ice cream on the counter. You read that right, I want you to get your cookies cold and your ice cream warm. That’s the kind of thing my mother would call the old switcheroo. You know, when you take the expected and turn it on its head. That’s something else my mom might have said. Well, that and it’s better than a kick in the pants. Which is very true. These switcharoo Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches are indeed better than any kick in the pants I ever had.

The best Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches (or any other type of ice cream sandwiches) start out with freshly baked, chewy cookies. In my opinion chewy cookies work better because they don’t get as brittle as crisp cookies do when frozen. And, as I said, I think the cookies should be frozen before you assemble these peanut butter ice cream sandwiches. So put the cookies in the freezer and the ice cream on the counter – and let’s get started.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches

Lay half the cold cookies onto a clean counter (topside down – duh). Place a big dollop of ice cream in the center of one cookie. The ice cream should have set on the counter long enough that it scoops with very little effort, but is not yet drippy (and messy). A generous amount of ice cream is necessary to avoid a dessert-time revolt of the masses. Next, use the back of the scoop to slightly flatten the ice cream, then place another cookie on top (topside up – duh). Then gently and evenly twist and press the top cookie down with the flat palm of your hand to create the sandwich. Use your finger to clean up the edges and redistribute some of the oozing ice cream. Place the finished ice cream sandwich onto a fresh from the freezer baking sheet. Then quickly repeat, repeat, repeat until all the sandwiches are made. If you want to get fancy you can dip the sandwiches in slightly cooled, melted chocolate. You’ll definitely get a few oohs and ahhs at the table if you do.

Once you’ve got them to this point (chocolate-dipped or not) let me give you some (more) advice. DO NOT SERVE THEM IMMEDIATELY. Freeze them for a bit. Once frozen they may be wrapped in parchment individually. When you’re ready to serve, let them sit at room temperature for a few moments. If you serve them on a hot night (which of course you will) they’ll be delightfully biteable in about 5 minutes.

Peanut Butter CookiesChocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream SandwichesJust so you know, there are differing opinions about constructing ice cream sandwiches out there. In fact, on the subject of how to Make the the Absolutely, Positively Best Ice Cream Sandwich, the otherwise highly dependable website The Kitchn gets it Absolutely, Positively wrong. I know because I tried it their way. Everything about their version (which requires a soft, hot cookie and hard cold ice cream) is a mess. That includes my kitchen counters. I will tolerate a lot of things in the pursuit of perfection, but sticky counters is not one of them. GREG

Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches

Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 16Published
Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches


  • 32 soft and chewy peanut butter cookies freshly baked and at room temperature)
  • 1 ½ quart chocolate ice cream
  • 10 ounce unsalted, dried roasted peanuts (roughly chopped)
  • 16-20 ounce semi-sweet chocolate (melted and slightly cooled)


Put the room temperature cookies into the freezer for at least 1 hour. Pour chopped peanuts into a large bowl. Place bowl and peanuts in the freezer for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, soften the ice cream by either moving it from the freezer to the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes, or let it stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Once the ice cream has softened somewhat, scrape it in several additions, into the bowl with the chopped peanuts, stirring after each addition until all the ice cream has been added and the peanuts are well distributed. Return the ice cream to the freezer if it begins to get too melted.

When ready to assemble, soften the ice cream slightly once again if necessary.

Lay half the frozen cookies onto a clean counter, topside down. Place a big dollop of ice cream in the center of one cookie. The ice cream should have softened enough that it scoops with very little effort, but is not yet drippy. Next, use the back of the scoop to slightly flatten the ice cream, then place another cookie on top, topside up. Gently and evenly twist and press the top cookie down with the flat palm of your hand to create the sandwich. Use your finger to clean up the edges and redistribute some of the oozing ice cream. Place the finished ice cream sandwich onto a fresh from the freezer baking sheet. Then repeat, repeat, repeat until all the sandwiches are made. Place the sandwiches in the freezer at least 20 minutes before proceeding.

Place the melted chocolate into 4 or 5-inch bowl to create a deep well of chocolate for dipping. Dip half of each sandwich into the chocolate and quickly move it to a chilled parchment-lined baking sheet, standing it on its side. Hold in place a moment, the chocolate will dribble down creating a stable base. Very cold cookies assists in the quick hardening of the chocolate. Repeat with all the sandwiches. There will be extra chocolate because you need plenty of it in the bowl to effectively dip. Save the extra for another use.

Return the chocolate-dipped sandwiches to the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before serving. You may also freeze them solid, then wrap them individually in parchment.


Dining at Little River Inn, Mendocino CA


Pine Nut Crusted Salmon , Dining at Little River Inn, Mendocino CA

I’m what you might call an itinerant gourmand so it’s probably no surprise that I often plan my trips around restaurants, bars, bakeries, markets, and of course wineries. If I can find all these things – plus natural beauty – in one destination it’s safe to assume that I’ll return again and again. Mendocino is one such place. Victorian architecture unexpectedly teetering on cliffs high above the ocean’s edge. It’s a town that looks more like an antique print of a New England fishing village than a famously mellow California artists’ community. It’s one of the most dramatic settings imaginable where the whole point of the place is to do pretty much nothing.

Well almost nothing. Because dining at Little River Inn is one of the reasons to check out this remote spot on California’s “lost” coast.

The first time I stopped in to dine at Little River Inn we sat at the bar to sample their award winning crab cakes. We slurped freshly shucked oysters as we waited, and I was as happy as a clam (I mean oyster). I can think of almost no better place to enjoy oysters than sitting on a bar stool in Ole’s Whale Watch Bar looking through the large window behind the bartender to see the ocean. There’s a steady stream of California gray whales that migrate south from Alaska to Baja from November through February, and return north from February through April. The rest of the year– summer and fall– you can see humpbacks, blue whales, and sometimes even sperm whales. That is if you can keep your eyes off the oysters. The place is the perfect marriage of food (wine) and circumstance in my opinion. So whenever I travel to this part of California it’s easy for me to say – “save me a seat at the bar at Little River Inn” – I’m bound to stop by for oysters and crab cakes real soon.

Just not too soon. Because on this trip I want to concentrate on the fine dining at Little River Inn. It’s another of those unexpected experiences that makes a trip to Mendocino worth the drive. After all, if you find yourself at Little River Inn you may have something romantic planned and fine dining is just the thing to set the mood.

Eating in Mendocino- Little River Inn

Dining at Little River Inn, Mendocino CAFine Dining at Little River Inn

As you enter the dining room you may be struck by how just a few steps from the bar to the dining room can change your experience completely. The main dining room is adjacent to Ole’s Whale Watch Bar and they share more than just a wall. They share they same menu! The bar is a gathering spot where visitors can sip pinot noir with local vinophiles in flannel shirts or chat up artists bouncing babies on their knees. It’s a place filled with what I call “a little of this and a lot of that.” There’s a TV (and sports of course). Cell phones don’t even work here (at least mine didn’t). There’s an amiable bartender named Sue willing to talk mushrooms, and like I said, it’s a great place for oysters and crab cakes. In other words it’s a casual spot.

Yet make those few steps from the bar to the dining room and you’ll notice the change in cabin pressure. The dining room is just as warm and unpretentious as the bar, but it has an air that makes the room worthy of a special event or romantic evening. The room’s golden wood tones are set off by simply adorned moss green walls that quietly blend into the grays of an overcast Mendocino morning. The windows open onto a minimalist’s focused view of terraced gardens. It’s a peaceful place. Maybe it’s the white table cloths, but I found myself slowly savoring the experience of the room, as opposed to chatting with my mouth full as I ordered another beer. I love dining in Mendocino both ways, and I love that Little River Inn gives me both options.

Wherever you’re seated the menu features traditional meat and seafood dishes like Steak Diane and Sole Almondine, proof of five-star chef Marc Dym’s interest in classically prepared food, as well as a local wine list. I chose Chef Dym’s Pine Nut-Crusted Salmon because it exemplifies why the dining at Little River Inn is considered a must see attraction along the Mendocino Coast. This elegant entree earns a flavor boost from its sweet basil coulis and savory pine nut crust. One bite and you’ll see that its Mediterranean influence is strong, but it’s made with local king salmon which is pure Mendocino. It’s a simple preparation. Simple enough to be made at home, so I asked the chef for the recipe which he graciously provided. He also agreed to make this dish for a video (see below). GREG

Little River Inn Little River InnLittle River Inn Pine Nut-Crusted Salmon from Little River Inn

I received compensation to bring information about dining at Little River Inn to this website. Some of the images in this post appear courtesy of Little River Inn.

Pine Nut-Crusted Salmon with Spinach Puree and Basil Coulis

Print This Recipe Total time Yield Source Chef Marc Dym, Little River InnPublished

There are many good recipes for polenta and you may use your favorite. I have a recipe that I like to use. It can be found here: http://www.sippitysup.com/recipe/polenta-cakes/

Pine Nut-Crusted Salmon


  • 1 bunch fresh basil (leaves only, roughly chopped)
  • 1 cup canola oil (plus more for cooking salmon)
  • salt and white pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 (6 oz) bag baby spinach leaves
  • 2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • Lawry's seasoned salt (to taste)
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 6 boneless, skinless salmon filets
  • 6 warm Parmesan polenta cakes (see note)


To make the basil coulis: Place chopped basil in a food processor. Drizzle in canola oil in a slow, steady stream. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and reserve.

To make the spinach puree: Place the butter into a medium saucepan set over medium heat. As it begins to melt, start swirling the pan frequently and watching the butter carefully. You will notice the butter will crackle, pop and get foamy as the milk solids begin to brown. Once that starts, remove skillet from heat. Smell the butter; it should have a nutty aroma, and be caramel in color. Set aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to boil. Add the spinach and blanch spinach till just wilted; about 1 minute. Drain well, squeezing the spinach to remove as much water as possible. Puree in food processor adding browned butter and sesame oil as the machine runs. Season to taste with seasoned salt.

Place spinach into a small saucepan and set aside until just before serving.

To make the salmon: Pulse pine nuts in food processor until ground to the texture of coarse sand. Season with salt and pepper. Spread a thin layer of the chopped nuts over one side of each salmon fillet. Press the nuts onto the surface with your hands so that they stick. Refrigerate until needed.

When ready to serve, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron pan over medium-low heat. Once the pan is hot, add small amount of canola oil to slick the surface. Cook salmon (nut-crusted side down) over medium high heat 2-3 minutes until nuts are light brown. Place the filets in a single layer with some space between them, do not crowd the pan; work in batches or use multiple pans if necessary. Once nicely browned, flip the fish and finish cooking in the heated oven 3-4 minutes for medium-rare (or to taste).
To serve: Gently heat the spinach puree on the stove. You may need to add a half teaspoon of water depending how far in advance you made the puree. Place a 2 tablespoon mound of warm spinach puree in the middle of plate. Lay a warm polenta cake and a cooked salmon filet over the spinach. Drizzle with basil coulis. Repeat with remaining spinach, polenta and fish. Serve immediately.

Wine Tasting in Jacksonville, Oregon?


Wine Tasting in Jacksonville, Oregon

Roadtrips and wine tasting are one of my favorite pairings: you get to put the juice in context by seeing the scenery, sampling the food and talking with its people (including winemakers if you’re lucky). Greg and I were 16 days into a South-to-North-to-South West Coast adventure that included stops in California, Washington and finally Jacksonville, Oregon. While not as well-known as the pinot-centric Willamette Valley, I had great hopes for our jaunt through the Southern Oregon wine country. I love exploring new regions, especially if the area is undiscovered or at least underappreciated. Jacksonville, Oregon in the Rogue Valley had a promising ring to it.

Jacksonville, Oregon

We were off to a good start, arriving noonish at the Back Porch Bar and Grill, highly esteemed by Yelpers for their hand-ground half pound burgers and old west flair. Splitting the massive burger (enhanced by blue cheese and onion rings) was plenty satisfying, especially since we chose to start with their deep fried green beans. This hearty meal served as a good “base” for the wine tasting to follow. Troon, Cowhorn, DANCIN Vineyards here we come.

Fiasco Winery Jacksonville, Oregon

Or so we had hoped. As it turned out, many of the tasting rooms along the Applegate Valley Wine Trail near Jacksonville, Oregon are only open on the weekends or by appointment. Ditto for the promising Quady North tasting room in town. So we hit the trail to sample what we could find. Stop number one was the Valley View Winery, the first post-prohibition winery in the Applegate Valley. The Wisnovsky family were pioneers and darn good marketers– their Rogue Red is quite popular in Costcos from here to Japan. I found the red wines a little thin, and even a bit sour. But they were running a good deal on a case of a lively and aromatic 2012 viognier ($22 by the bottle but $99 by the case). We passed however, reserving our cargo area for more distinctive examples.

Valley View Jacksonville, OregonApplegate Wine Trail Jacksonville, OregonNext stop was the charming riverside Red Lily Vineyards. Although they’re known for their award-winning tempranillo (and it was good, a smooth spicy explosion of dark red fruit), I opted for their Red Blanket Tempranillo blend, which is 21% cabernet sauvignon. A well-crafted blend can be more balanced and is usually less expensive than a pure varietal. But here’s one irksome detail that bit into my budget: the policy of charging a tasting fee even when you purchase a bottle or two. In any event I was conserving cash since we still had our new favorite wine destination, California’s Anderson Valley, up ahead.

Red Lily Winery Jacksonville, OregonJacksonville, Oregon

Our final wine tasting destination was in Jacksonville proper at the South Stage Cellars. This refuge from the hazy, triple-digit heat was manned by an informative, friendly and generous pourer. I guess the third time was the charm– South Stage’s thirteen vineyards grow twenty-eight grape varieties offering plenty of opportunity for discovery. As a riesling fan, I savored the refreshing apple-fresh La Brasseur, the wine was a Gold Medal Winner at 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and held its own in a recent Finger Lakes, New York competition. On the other end of the spectrum, South Stage has a 100% carmenere (usually found in blends) that was redolent of green pepper, jalepeño and smoky earthy fruit. My fave though was a marsanne/rousanne blend called Romeo & Juliet. The two varietals were meant for each other, one supplying structure, one providing aromatics and minerality. And, unlike the play, it ends well.

South Stage Cellars, Jacksonville ORJacksonville OR

What tops off an afternoon of wine tasting? Pairing your latest wine discovery with fine local cuisine. Unfortunately, events conspired against us again. Even though we were smack dab in the middle of the Southern Oregon Wine Festival every single restaurant we’d read about was closed: Gogi’s, C Street Bistro, Déjà Vu at the historic McCully House Inn… We ended up eating peanuts and deep fried jalepeño poppers at the Boomtown Saloon and drinking the beer on tap at the Jville tavern. My advice, if you plan to visit Jacksonville, Oregon go on the weekend. KEN

Wine Tasting Barrels in Jacksonville, Oregon

The Applegate Wine Trail, Jacksonville, Oregon

Stone and Embers Wood-Fired Pizza


Stone and Embers Anderson Valley

Even if Stone and Embers (Chef Patrick Meany’s Anderson Valley, California eatery) weren’t located along Highway 128 on one of California’s most beautiful drives it would still be a destination restaurant. Establishments like Stone and Embers make me love roadtrips. Roadtrips offer a wide-open possibility of new experiences, as well as the chance to return to favorite places. Places that may not be easy to get to until you get behind the wheel and let the tensions of day-to-day life melt away with the miles. Much of Mendocino County and the Anderson Valley is like that for me. It takes a bit of effort to get there (2 hours or so north of San Francisco) but that’s the point of a roadtrip.

However, Anderson Valley has more going for it than just the exquisite driveability of its wide-open spaces. First there’s the natural wonder of the place. It’s one of those areas of California that’s still sparsely populated enough to remain authentically beautiful. Then there’s the wine. The Anderson Valley may well be California’s coolest new Pinot Noir appellation – literally and figuratively – as this delicate grape doesn’t thrive in warmer regions.

Anderson Valley Vineyards

On roadtrips we often steer our vehicle towards whatever wine country is closest. However, if you’ve read this blog before you know that my culinary interest goes beyond the terroir of cool-climate Pinots and Alsatian-style white wines. Eating well is always a priority in the world’s best wine regions. Which makes sense to me. People who care deeply about what they drink won’t typically settle for a roadside greasy spoon or drive-thru fast food. As wine tourism flourishes in any given region an ambitious culinary scene usually develops. I’m old enough to have seen it happen in the valleys of Santa Barbara County and more recently in unexpected pockets of Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico. I’m happy to say that the food we enjoyed in the Anderson Valley wonderfully compliments its world-class wine.

The first time we visited Anderson Valley I’ll admit I was skeptical about what we might find. As we drove over a steep, forested hill to look across a field of sheep gathered in the shade of a large oak tree I thought – bucolic, but is that all there is?

However as we continued driving, the dense forest of redwoods and red-fruited madrones opened under a pale blue sky accentuated by rolling blond hills. The landscape presented itself as both wildly fertile and haphazardly domesticated. The long, rolling rows of grape-laden vines began to give me the impression that the Anderson Valley might be something extra special. I’m happy to say that even then, the hours we spent on the road were soon rewarded with the great food and wine that, as Stone and Embers proves, gets better and more diverse with every visit.

Stone and Embers Wood-Fired Pizza

Stone and Embers Wood-Fired Pizza

When people think of quintessential pizza cities Naples and Rome come to mind. In this country New York and Chicago often get singled out. Pizzeria Mozza has put Los Angeles on the pizza map too. But you might be surprised to find that Stone and Embers is making the tiny town of Philo, CA a pizza destination in its own right. Here, you’ll find hand-crafted pies with thin but pliable crusts sporting visible char bubbles – the kind that can only come from the blistering heat of a wood-fired oven. The seasonal toppings on these pizzas are proudly local, with creative flavors and an unfussy preparation.

Schooled in San Fransisco’s California Culinary Academy and trained in the kitchens of Buchon and Gary Danko, Chef Patrick Meany couples his impressive resume with locally-inspired spontaneity. It’s precisely this quality-minded, easygoing bohemianism that makes it so easy to settle in at one of the tables situated in a shady courtyard of the community-minded Madrones complex (a cluster of luxury suites set inside a Mediterranean guest house with four wine tasting rooms).

Chef at Stone and EmbersBefore you arrive you should know that there’s a strict commitment to local produce and handcrafted foods at Stone and Embers. It’s one of those restaurants that takes a curious pride in how little they have on the menu. That’s because everything at Stone and Embers is as fresh and local as it can possibly be. Which means the restaurant has a maximum capacity of 60 pizzas a day. They often sellout early, or close unexpectedly (or fail to open after a special event). I know because I’ve been disappointed by these calamities before. So call ahead and don’t fret too much if you miss the pizza pie. The charm of Stone and Embers goes well beyond pizza. The Mugnaini oven (Italy’s original wood-fired oven) also brings forth a simple but eclectic menu of small bites such as mushroom “chicharrones” and Parmesan-blasted, oven-blistered shishito peppers. Besides, daily ice cream specials like Buttered Toast or Sour Milk with Elderflower will hit the spot no matter what else is on the menu. GREG

Stone and Embers PizzaStone and Embers Pizza MenuStone and Embers PatioStone and Embers ShishitosStone and Embers Diners

Stone and Embers: 9000 Hwy 128 Philo, California.


Blackberry Cobbler Seattle Style


Blackberry Cobbler

Another day and another bowl of blackberries to use up. This time I chose to make Blackberry Cobbler. I’m in Seattle, one of this country’s most beautiful and diverse cities. There are a million things to do. Yet somehow I find myself roaming the side streets of the Lake Washington neighborhood where I am staying searching for blackberries EVERYDAY!

Not that Blackberry Cobbler isn’t a fine way to pass an afternoon. It brings me pleasure at all three stages. I enjoy picking the berries, I find the baking of the Blackberry Cobbler satisfying, and of course I love sitting down and eating this summertime classic with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Blackberry Cobbler

There are many versions of Cobblers (not to mention Crumbles, Bettys, Crisps and even Pandowdys). The differences between these summertime desserts are widely discussed (sometimes even argued). To me the differences are irrelevant. So I’m going to call this version a Cobbler. Though I’ll admit it’s the most casual of Cobblers – maybe even closer to a Crumble. It’s much easier to put together than the biscuit styles I’ve made at home. And that’s the point. I’m not at home and I want to save some time for other endeavors. This simple six-ingredient recipe lets me make the most of Seattle’s seasonal backyard berries while hardly lifting a finger.

Still, as much as I enjoy Blackberry Cobbler I promise that today I’m going to get out into the city and do something exciting. Maybe I’ll visit the Space Needle or Pike Place Market. I’d love to take a long walk along the lake. Whatever I decide to do I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. And I’ll get to it real soon. Just as soon as I nab a few more blackberries from down the street. GREG

Blackberry Cobbler

Simple Blackberry Cobbler

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Southern LivingPublished
Blackberry Cobbler


  • 6 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ice cream (optional)


Preheat oven to 375°. Place blackberries in a lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish; sprinkle with lemon juice. Stir together egg, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle over fruit. Drizzle melted butter over topping. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream, if desired.


Blackberry Old-Fashioned Cocktail (Locally Foraged)


Blackberry Old-Fashioned

I’m sitting in Seattle sipping a Blackberry Old-Fashioned cocktail. As I mentioned in a previous post I’m in awe of the blackberries that seem to grow across every fence, brambling their way through the hedges of this Lake Washington neighborhood. The berries are fat and glossy. I can’t seem to stop myself from plucking the ripest of them as I explore the alleys and side streets of these lake view hillsides. My fingers are stained with their juice. It’s a rather delightful way to pass a sunny Seattle afternoon.

I’ve discovered that here in Washington there are three different kinds of blackberries that can be locally foraged and only one of them is a native species. This type is known as the Creeping or Trailing Blackberry. It’s a low growing vine-like plant that, as you can guess by its name, creeps along the ground. I’ve heard they’re the sweetest (and the smallest) of the three varieties, but they’re not too common in the city. So I’ll have to save this blackberry for another day and another sweet Blackberry Old-Fashioned cocktail.

Of the two imported varieties found in and around Seattle the first is the Cut-Leaf Blackberry and it does indeed have an indented leaf, more like a maple than a beech. The main difference (besides the leaf shape) is that this blackberry produces berries that ripen all at once, then drop to the ground. I didn’t find any of these blackberries, I guess they’re too messy for most folks to tolerate.

Himalayan BlackberryBut I did find the Himalayan Blackberry. It’s the the largest and most prominent of the three. If you’ve live in Washington, you’ve probably encountered thickets of this delectable but challenging plant in many parts of the city (both wild and cultivated). I guess these canes can be a bit invasive. I’ve heard complaints about its aggressive growing habit. But I will say this – if you find a good patch of ripening Himalayan Blackberries, you can collect more than you’ll know what to do with in just a few minutes. Which is why I decided to make a Blackberry Old-Fashioned when cocktail hour rolled around this evening.

Blackberry Old-Fashioned Cocktail

When you think of fruit from the Great Northwest apples and cherries come to mind, but berries have a charm that I find very appealing in a cocktail. I thought long and hard about making a blackberry daiquiri. It’s warm here and rum is so summery. However, in the end I succumbed to the classic combination of whiskey and blackberries. When it comes to a Blackberry Old-Fashioned you have two ways to go. You can make a blackberry flavored simple syrup with a little bit of cinnamon, orange peel, and vanilla or muddle the berries in the classic style with sugar and Angostura bitters. Once you’ve either made the syrup or pressed the berries just add two or three ounces of rye whiskey, ice, and stir. Garnish with a few more fresh whole blackberries.

The beauty of the Old-Fashioned cocktail is that it’s just a starting point: You could easily swap in peaches or nectarines. Blueberries pair just as well with whiskey as blackberries too. Which might surprise you. When it comes to summer fruit, most people stick with white spirits like vodka, gin, and rum, but this Blackberry Old-Fashioned will show you that brown spirits can be just as enjoyable with summer bounty. GREG

Himalayan Blackberry

Blackberry Old-Fashioned

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1Published
Blackberry Old-Fashioned


  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2-3 dash Angostura bitters (or to taste)
  • whole fresh blackberries (as needed for muddling and garnishing)
  • 3-4 medium ice cubes
  • 2-3 ounce rye (or bourbon if you prefer)
  • club soda (optional)
  • large, wide orange peel strip


Place sugar in the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass. Add two or three dashes of Angostura bitters and three blackberries. Muddle until the mixture until sugar is dissolved. Add ice cubes to the glass and stir.

Pour in 2 or 3 oz straight rye then add a splash of club soda (if using); stir again. Twist an orange peel over the top, garnish with additional whole berries (to taste) and serve with a stir stick.

Blackberry Old-Fashioned Cocktail

Appreciating Lemon-Olive Oil Cake with Blackberries


Lemon-Olive Oil Cake

This Lemon-Olive Oil Cake with Blackberries is a gentle reminder to look around and smell the roses (or in this case the cake). I strongly believe there’s something wonderful in every corner of the world. It’s easy to forget how special things are where you live because when we live with all that special stuff we sometimes forget to appreciate everyday beauty. I’m guilty of that sometimes. For example, when people visit me in Southern California they always exclaim how “woooonderful” it would be to grow lemons in your very own backyard. Meyer Lemons no less. “What a treat!”

And it is wonderful. I try to remember that everyday. However, I’m on a three week drive trip with stops in the Eastern Sierras, Central Oregon, Southern Washington, and Seattle (where I’m currently tapping out this post). The return trip will be a leisurely drive down through the Willamette Valley and Northern California coast before heading inland through the San Joaquin Valley back to Los Angeles. The point being, I’m out of my element. So, like the lemon gawkers who visit me in So Cal, I’m astounded by the fruit that grows here. Especially blackberries. Not only can people grow blackberries in their very own backyard, but blackberries grow wild by the side of the road – everywhere! Meyer Lemons are great, but blackberries make me swoon!

Lemon-Olive Oil Cake with Blackberries

So to honor the bounty I live with and the glory of the berries I’ve discovered on my journey I’ve stirred together a simple Meyer Lemon-Olive Oil Cake with Blackberries. I’ve included pistachios in this cake too. Can you imagine living in a place where pistachios actually grow on trees? It must be heavenly! GREG

Lemon-Olive Oil CakeLemon-Olive Oil CakeLemon-Olive Oil Cake

Lemon-Olive Oil Cake with Blackberries and Pistachios

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Source Inspired by SqirlPublished

Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Store wrapped tightly at room temperature.

Lemon-Olive Oil Cake


  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar (divided)
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon plus ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (divided, I used Meyer)
  • 2 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (Iused Meyer)
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 12 ounce fresh blackberries (divided)
  • 3 tablespoon chopped unsalted, raw pistachios


Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9” diameter cake pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with a 9″ diameter piece of parchment; oil the parchment.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With mixer running, add vanilla and 1 tablespoon lemon juice, then gradually add oil, mixing just until combined. Fold in lemon zest and flour mixture.

Scrape 2/3 of the batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Scatter half the blackberries over batter and smooth the remaining batter on top. Sprinkle pistachios and 2 tablespoons sugar all over.

Bake cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring remaining ¼ cup sugar and remaining ¼ cup lemon juice to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar; let lemon syrup cool.

Transfer hot cake (still in pan) to a wire rack and immediately brush with lemon syrup (use all of it). Let cake cool completely in pan. Remove cake from pan, slice and serve with remaining blackberries on the side.

Lemon-Olive Oil Cake with Blackberries

Cuban Turkey Burger with Wild Rice and Beans Salad


Cuban Turkey Burger

A burger can be a stand alone meal. What other dish looms as large in the imagination? Thick and flavorful with crisp toppings and carefully chosen condiments – nearly everyone has a favorite burger. From classic beef to ground salmon (and including veggie burgers), the combinations are endless. This Cuban Turkey Burger has two kinds of meat, two kinds of vegetables and a special sauce that glues the whole mess together. I think it’s particularly well-suited as a two-fisted meal in itself. So if you want don’t want to read this whole post that’s okay with me. I get it. A big burger and your done, right. Who needs a side dish when a burger this big is a meal in itself?

Well, sometimes (I’d argue) we all do. Even the greatest burger is better when its served with an equally delicious partner. Fries are fine. Cole slaw and potato salad are classic accompaniments. But this Cuban Turkey Burger is no casual burger. It takes some planning and some preparation. Which means this burger is a burger designed for summer entertaining. A well-chosen side dish is just the thing to elevate your backyard burger party into a fully realized outdoor dinner party.

Cuban Turkey Burger

I don’t know if turkey is common in Cuba. However, Cuba’s been in the news and on my mind lately. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Florida and I’ve developed a love of Cuban food. Especially the Cuban Sandwich. This Cuban Turkey Burger borrows flavors from that classic sandwich. It’s topped with pickles and Swiss cheese. I’ve even grilled up a slab of Canadian bacon to give it that much needed element of sweet pork.

Wild Rice and Beans Salad

Rice and Beans are another Cuban mainstay. I’ve re-imagined this classic combination as a summer salad side dish that’s hefty enough to act as a main course for the vegetarians at your burger party. I’ve kept the Latin influence strong with roasted poblano peppers and summer fresh corn. The flavors are big enough and bold enough that the only dressing this salad needs is big, bright spritz of lime.


Wild Rice SaladCuban Turkey Burger and Wild Rice and Beans SaladCuban Turkey Burger and Wild Rice and Beans Salad

Cuban Turkey Burgers

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Published
Cuban Turkey Burgers and Wild Rice and Beans Salad


  • 1 ½ pound ground turkey
  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup grainy mustard
  • vegetable oil (for brushing)
  • 8 thin slices Swiss cheese
  • 4 sesame seed buns (split)
  • 4 red-leaf lettuce leaves
  • 8 slice cooked Canadian bacon
  • 2 dill pickles (sliced)


Place turkey, onion, parsley, Dijon mustard, and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Season with pepper, and mix gently. Shape into four ½-inch-thick patties, cover, and refrigerate until cold and firm, about 30 minutes.

Mix mayonnaise and grainy mustard together in a small bowl. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Preheat grill to medium-high. (If you are using a charcoal grill, coals are ready when you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill for just 3 to 4 seconds.) Brush grill with oil. Season both sides of patties with salt and pepper. Grill, flipping once, until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Top each burger with 2 cheese slices during final 30 seconds of cooking.

Grill buns, flat sides down, until toasted, about 30 seconds. Spread mayo-mustard mixture mixture on bottom bun, top with 1 leaf lettuce, 1 cooked burger, 2 Canadian bacon, slices and some pickles. Sandwich the burger with a top half, repeat with remaining burgers.

Wild Rice and Beans Salad with Fresh Corn and Poblanos

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Martha Stewart LivingPublished

Frozen corn is easily substituted for fresh in this recipe.

Wild Rice Salad


  • 3 cup water
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • coarse salt
  • 2 fresh poblano peppers
  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 ½ cup fresh corn kernels (from about 3 ears)
  • 1 (15 oz black beans (rinsed and drained
  • freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice


Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add rice and 2 teaspoons salt. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until rice is al dente and some grains have split, 45 to 50 minutes. Drain.

Roast poblanos directly over a gas-stove burner or under a broiler, turning often with tongs, until charred on all sides. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 15 minutes. Rub poblanos with a paper towel to remove skins. Cut a slit down the side of each poblano, and remove seeds. Cut into ½-inch dice.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add poblanos, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in corn, and cook for 3 minutes. Add wild rice and black beans, stirring to coat, and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Let cool slightly, then transfer to a bowl. Cover, and refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour. Stir in scallions, cilantro, and lime juice.

Lobster Spaghetti is Messy Fun


Lobster Spaghetti

Spicy Lobster Spaghetti is what you might call the American cousin to Lobster Fra Diavolo. That assumes that Lobster Fra Diavolo (devilish brother) is indeed an authentic Italian pasta dish. That seems to be debatable. I will say the idea of Lobster Spaghetti seems more like an East Coast, first-generation Italian-American version of the spicy seafood and tomato sauced pastas that have roots along Italy’s Amalfi coast. But I’m not here to discuss semantics. I’m in the mood for lobster. The idea of a big messy plate of Lobster Spaghetti appeals to me more than the difficult to pronounce Fra Diavolo.

Speaking of messes – at its very best lobster can be messy too. In fact it’s often served with a bib. Still (ironically), lobster is usually reserved for white tablecloth celebrations. We pull out the bone china, the sterling silver lobster forks, and get the butter melting for an impressive, but thoroughly predictable presentation.

Well, I’ve got something messier in mind.

Wine Pairing

La Caudrina “La Selvatica” Asti

La Caudrina "La Selvatica" Asti
Ken Eskenazi

Price $19

Pairs well with shellfish, grilled salmon, soft cheeses, prosciutto & melon, figs, peach shortcake, or on its own as an aperitif.

Lobster Spaghetti

My version of Lobster Spaghetti is made spicy with habanero and is garnished with an unexpected fistful of fresh mint. It’s inspired by Dave Pasternack, the chef and owner of Esca in New York City. However mine is messier. Pasternack chops a whole lobster into 8 pieces, but I prefer to keep the lobster tails whole and let the diner break the shells open with their hands before twirling the lobster hunks into forkfuls of spicy noodles.

Which leaves diners with a dilemma. How much mess do they want to endure?

There are two ways to eat messy spaghetti. Both of them make rational adults feel like boisterous children (which is why spaghetti is considered fun food). First there’s the Italian Grandpa method of holding a fork in one hand, a spoon in the other, and twirling the pasta into a little ball that can be slipped into your mouth. I call this the “Sunday Supper” style because it helps control the mess a big a pile of noodles promises. The other way to eat spaghetti is to simply get in there face-first and suck down some sauce and slurp up some noodles. I think this is the preferred method for Lobster Spaghetti. Once you’ve got your face in the plate, it just makes sense to crack open a lobster tail with both hands. Go ahead and use your fingers to coax the sweet meat from the shell. You may as well lick the spicy red sauce from your fingers – because nobody’s watching. They’ve got a big (messy) plate of Lobster Spaghetti in front of them too. GREG

Habanero MintLobster Tails Pasta/AstiLobster Spaghetti

Spicy Lobster Spaghetti

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Inspired by Dave PasternackPublished
Spicy Lobster Spaghetti


  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • 4 whole, raw lobster tails
  • 3 tablespoon canola oil (or other high smoke point oil)
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • 1 habanero chile (seeded and minced, or to taste)
  • 2 cup tomato sauce
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • freshly cracked black pepper (as needed)


Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add spaghetti, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain but do not rinse, reserving ½ cup cooking water.

Meanwhile, use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to carefully cut top side of lobster shells lengthwise all the way to, but not through, the tail.

Heat 3 tbsp oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add tails shell side down. Wrap your hand in a towel and use tongs to hold the lobster in contact with the pan and to move the tails around with different areas in contact with the pan until the shells begin to turn red, about 4 minutes.

Add wine to the pan, cover with lid, and lower the heat to medium-low; cook about 2 minutes more, or until the meat begins to look opaque. Remove lid, add garlic and chiles and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add reserved pasta water and tomato sauce. Cook until slightly thickened.

Add pasta to sauce with tails, tossing to coat then transfer to a large serving plate. Garnish with mint, season with salt and pepper; serve immediately.

I used local spiny lobsters for this recipe. Maine lobsters will get more red in cooking.


La Caudrina “La Selvatica” Asti


La Caudrina "La Selvatica" Asti

You blew your wad on a couple of lobster tails, yet you still want to serve an impressive nuanced bubbly alongside the meal. Champagne’s out. A quality Prosecco or Cava could work, but they don’t quite have the je ne sais quoi elegance you’re looking for. I’d like to propose a delicate, lightly sweet Moscato d’Asti. Specifically, the La Caudrina “La Selvatica” Asti from Italy’s famed Piedmont region.

La Caudrina “La Selvatica” Asti

Not to be confused with its more popular (yet somehow both bland and cloying) cousin Asti Spumante, Moscato d’Asti is a sophisticated, low alcohol, frizzante or semi-sparkling wine. Its production is limited to small, artisanal winemakers in the hillsides surrounding the town of Asti. The gently pressed juice of the Moscato Bianco grapes is fermented in closed stainless steel tanks and is generally allowed to reach a mere 5 percent sweetness. DOCG designation indicates the highest level of quality.

A bit more complex than a Spumante, a Moscato d’Asti makes its presence known through its lively acidity– supplying a much-needed citrus spritz for a successful seafood pairing. In this case, the terroir of the La Caudrina “La Selvatica” Asti also supplies a touch of minerality to the citrus notes. Plus, its perfumed aromatics and hint of honey flavor serve to complement the succulent, decadent, chewy-wonderful bite of sea-bed-sweet lobster tail in Greg’s dish.

But it’s not all sweetness and light. Greg has a habit of spicing things up. This time he’s thrown habanero pepper into the mix. Another reason that a slightly sweet, chilled wine makes sense– it cuts through Greg’s “devilishly” spiced interpretation of Lobster Spaghetti.

If money’s no object, and that’s not likely the case unless you’re one of the 85 people who control half the world’s wealth (don’t get me started), you could pop for Champagne instead. But why spend more just to play it safe? This charming sparkler with the whimsical label will make you just as happy and will change the way you think about Asti. KEN

Pairs With Lobster Spaghetti is Messy Fun

La Caudrina "La Selvatica" Asti