Author: Lowell Sheldon

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A Winemaker’s Thoughts on the Fire : A Bond Stronger than Business

From Lowell : Each year our photographer Dawn and I head out to visit a vineyard during harvest. In October 2017 we visited a merlot vineyard that Kenny and Lynn from Hobo Wine Company work with in the Sonoma Valley. The vineyard, and home of Ian Morrison and his wife, is nuzzled into the hillside on the narrow road heading up to Sugar Loaf State Park. It was a beautiful and crisp morning on the 3rd of October, and was an especially fun trip for me because the vineyard happened to be owned by my former high school art teacher at Summerfield Waldorf. Little did we know, less that a week later, the devastating fires of Northern California would lap up to the vineyards edge. After the fires hit, Dawn and I felt like we needed to head back a few months later, to understand what had become of the neighborhood. Over a dozen houses on this small street had been burnt to the ground, some no more than 100 yards from the vineyard and home of …

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Handline’s House Dressing

As with most great recipes, this one has a good story. One of both tradition and deceit. I first tried a version of this mind altering dressing about 12 years ago at a great West County restaurant. Chef Tai Olesky owned a cool spot named Mosaic in Forestville. His house salad was tender lettuces, blue cheese, toasted almonds, and sliced apples with a rich and somehow familiar dressing. I had never tried this dressing before, but the flavors brought me back. Learning later that the ingredients included such hippie classics as apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast and tamari made perfect sense. I, like Tai, grew up in Sonoma County in the 80’s. We were both children of “back-to-the-earth” hippies. He claimed this recipe as his own secret and made a small name for himself on its back. Fast-forward a few years later, when my brother Will returned from a Hollyhock Retreat center, on Vancouver Island, with a recipe book from their cafeteria kitchen. It turned out the house salad recipe from that book was the …

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Satsuma Harvest

Sonoma County is packed with hidden orchards and Natalie and I find great joy in sussing them out. Every year we return to our favorites for their seasonal fruits. Last year we discovered a 30 year old citrus orchard tucked quietly behind El Molino High School in Forestville. The prize of this orchards is the Satsumas, which ripen on the trees to a perfect pitch of sweet and tart. The evolution of flavor of the Satsuma from the moment it’s picked to when its bought in a store up to 2 weeks later can be stark. The acid drops of precipitously, leaving a flat sweetness in its wake. With this in mind, we make sure to eat them as we pick them, using them at Peter Lowell’s and Handline as quickly as possible. Self control is impossible.    

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Miso Ginger Sauce

Peter Lowell’s was created based on an idea I had that a restaurant menu could mimic the way I want to eat every day. Of course this couldn’t include all the cuisines I love, but the goal was to have enough menu variety that it could be a place one could eat regularly and stay satisfied. The menu was based on a Cal-Italian approach to cooking, but in order for a menu to be approachable every day it needed more that just antipasti, pasta, pizza, and meat. It needed some staples; a foundational dish that could be enjoyed daily. Out of this need came the Macro Bowl. Based on the idea of Macrobiotic cooking, and inspired by the Dragon Bowl from Angelicas Kitchen in NYC, it is a simple dish of brown rice, roasted vegetables, beans, blanched greens, and a protein and sauce of your choice.  It is meant to be simple but enjoyable at all times of the day and year. It has truly grounded our ever changing seasonally inspired menu and has created …

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The Classic Nicoise Salad

It’s one of the most pleasurable lunchtime meals and harks from one of the most pleasurable places on the planet to spend a lazy afternoon. The crested coast of South France is epic in it’s multitude of views, sites, and meals. At it’s most basic, and as it’s regularly served in Southern France, the Nicoise salad is canned tuna, olives, boiled potatoes, green beans and a soft or hard boiled egg, with a touch of lettuces. We encourage you to play with these ingredients. The Nicoise salad, as we are sharing with you, is in reference to both the preparation of the canned tuna into a tuna salad, and the preparation of the tuna salad as part of a composed Nicoise Salad. The Tuna Salad – In a large mixing bowl add: The zest and juice of 1 lemon (add more to taste if needed) 1/4 bunch parsley, chopped 1/2 red onion, shaved 1/2 cup celery heart, thinly sliced 1/2 cup chickpea beans 1 T capers and caper juice 1/2 cup aioli of your choice …

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Alberigi Vineyards Pinot Noir Crush

Harvest started early this year, as it seems to have for the last several vintages. Every year I make sure to visit a few of the wineries we work with to make sure they aren’t adding any funny business into their wine. This year we were lucky enough to have Dawn Heumann along to capture the process. On the morning of August 26th we visited Eric Sussman, of Radio Coteau, at Alberigi Vineyard for harvest. Later we joined the winemakers back at the winery to see the grapes being destemmed and moved into tank for fermentation. Check out the process below. It’s sort of hard to believe that sweet pink grape juice turns into seductive Pinot Noir.  

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Rose Water Panna Cotta with Fresh Strawberries

Panna cotta can seem daunting to make because it contains gelatin. Once you become familiar with the way the ingredient works, however, this dessert becomes one of the most simple and delicious things you can make. Gelatin needs reconstituting, or blooming, before use, which simply means it must be soaked in cold water for a couple of minutes before adding to any recipe. The other important thing to note about gelatin is that it only dissolves in warm/hot mixtures. Once you understand these two facets of gelatin use, you’ll be off into the wonderful world of panna cotta. This traditional Italian spoon dessert can be flavored with anything from herbs and spices, to chocolate and coffee, much like ice cream. It is basically just a sweetened and set cream, which I like to use as a backdrop to fresh, seasonal fruit. Here is a recipe for rose water panna cotta which goes so wonderfully with juicy red berries, my favorite being strawberries. Ingredients: 4 cups cream ½ cup sugar 1 vanilla bean 4 sheets gelatin …

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Chocolate Nemesis Cake

This rich, dense, gluten free, flourless chocolate cake has been on our menu since the day we opened. With surprisingly few ingredients, it is a very simple cake to make at home. 1 1/3 cups sugar 1 cup butter 1/2 cup water 12 oz. best quality dark chocolate (at least 70%), chopped 5 eggs Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch cake pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper to extend above the rim of the pan by approximately 2 inches, and set it inside a large pot or roasting pan big enough to hold it comfortably. Place the chopped chocolate into a large heatproof bowl. You’ll be using this to fold the batter together, so make sure it’s nice and roomy, too. Place one cup of the sugar and the water in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Add the butter and simmer on low, whisking from time to time. When everything is melted together, pour this very hot mixture over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for …

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Lowell’s House Chili Oil

About five years ago we started making chili oil for our tables, as is common in restaurants throughout Italy. Given our love for all things with a little spice, we felt it complemented our pizzas quite well. It’s so simple I highly recommend making a bottle for your home use. It’s not only great on pizza but with eggs and pasta as well. 500ml bottle of organic olive oil (ideally in a clear bottle) ½ cup organic chili flakes Pour bottle of olive oil into a stainless steel pot and add chili flakes, retaining original bottle to pour oil back into. Bring oil to a light simmer on medium low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. Pour oil and chili flakes into a blender and blend on high for 2 minutes. Pour through a very fine strainer and let settle for 24 hours. Pour oil back into original bottle, leaving sediment behind. Enjoy daily!

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A Year-Round Minestrone

Minestrone has been a core component of the menu at Peter Lowell’s since we first started dreaming. This year-round soup is, at its core, a bridge between American and Italian cooking. It has been a part of American cuisine for so long that we barely associate it with its Italian roots. Americans often add pasta to minestrone, but we prefer a more traditional version. No matter where you are, the essence of minestrone remains the same — a simple vegetable soup with tomatoes, beans and greens. From there one can go in many directions. The recipe below represents our version of this soup, one we have cooked almost daily for eight years. We change small things but keep the basic recipe the same. Here are a couple of things to think about when making this soup. 1) Beans are best when cooked fresh (as long as they are properly seasoned along the way), as apposed to using canned. But it’s also more time-consuming. Because the beans in this soup are added at the end of …