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We were fortunate to be invited to spend the night in the middle of the woods – although close to home, it felt like a world away. We were “warned” it was very basic, no electricity or hot water – and the guys were planning to go coon hunting once the sun went down.

I packed my book, left out the high heel shoes, and was very excited to cook and provide dinner for the group. I planned for the menu to be rustic, to equal our accommodations, and our friends offered the refined fun of wine pairings for each course.

The fire burning in the hearth, the gently lamp light and the company and conversation was warm and cozy. It was a peaceful, beautiful evening, and my husband and I took full advantage of the hiking trails around the property the next morning.

The beautiful cabin

Treasures inside the Cabin

Wild Mushroom Soup with White Port 

Paired with a 2012 Schug Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

8 tablespoons butter, room temperature

4 shallots, chopped

3 1/2 to 4 cups of dried wild mushrooms (I used porcini, lobster, wood ear and oyster)

4 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 cups white port wine

3 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups cream

salt and pepper to taste

fresh chopped parsley

Soak dried wild mushrooms in hot chicken stock for an hour. Strain, save liquid and chop mushrooms.

Saute shallots in butter until translucent. Add all the mushrooms, both fresh and wild. Cook until very little liquid remains.

Add port wine and reduce liquid again until most of it is gone. Add in flour (I mix it with a little water or broth first). Stir well. Add saved mushroom liquid, cook for half and hour at a low simmer.

Add in cream and bring just to a boil then to turn to low and simmer for half and hour.

Blend using an immersion blender to the consistency of your choice.

Add salt and pepper to taste, divide among bowls and top with parsley.


Recipe adapted from The Dining Guide. February 2014


Braised Lamb Shanks with Tomato and Fennel

Paired with a 2008 Bell Sierra Foothills Syrah

4 lamb shanks

1/2 cup flour

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 onions, peeled and cut in half, then sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 leek, sliced into 1/4 inch half moons

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup red wine

2 cups chicken stock

1 (28 ounce) can peeled whole tomatoes, drained

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

2 dried bay leaves

2 fennel bulbs, cut into half and sliced 1/4 inch thick

Heat oven to 375F.

Season lamb all over with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Dredge lamb in flour, turning to coat evenly, shake off excess. Heat oil and butter in an 8 quart dutch oven, over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, cook until shanks are well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer shanks to a large plate, drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat.

Place dutch oven over medium heat, add onions and leek, and sauté until they are lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cook 4 minutes more. Add red wine, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Return shanks to the dutch oven, and add chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and place in oven. Braise for 2 hours, add fennel and cook for 30 minutes longer.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer shanks and vegetables to a large bowl. Using a ladle, skim fat from surface of cooking liquid, cook over medium heat until liquid is thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Return shanks and vegetables to pan, cook until heated through. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.


Spiced Pumpkin, Fig, Pine Nut and Ginger Tart

Paired with a non-vintage Bell North Coast Brut

300 grams of pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1.5 cm dice

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons chopped crystallized ginger

110 grams unsalted butter, melted

200 grams of ginger cookies

6 dried figs, stems removed, sliced

1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted


2 lemons, zest and juice

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

100 grams of mascarpone

150 mills of chilled cream

Heat oven to 170C.

Combine pumpkin, spice, sugar, ginger and 30 grams of the butter, place on a lined cookie sheet and bake until pumpkin is tender.

Crumb ginger cookies in a food processor, and remaining butter and mix again briefly. Press into a tart tin and refrigerate.

Tip pumpkin into a bowl with figs and pine nuts and stir until combined. Spoon mixture into tart case and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before removing from tin.

Serve with lemon vanilla cream.


Place lemon juice and zest in a small pan with sugar and vanilla. Bring to the boil then simmer to a thickish syrup. Cool before mixing with mascarpone. Whisk cream to soft peaks and gently stir into mascarpone mixture.


Recipe adapted from New Zealand House and Garden