Sweet Potato Soup & Cabernet Franc

The sweet potato soup garnished with bacon and sage paired with the 2011 Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve from Orange County, Virginia is a delightful pairing. I really love the way the rich berry notes and caramelized fig flavors in the wine bring out the sweetness in the potato. The slight herbaceous notes in the wine bring the sage to life. The bacon add just a touch of texture and richness to the dish!

Recipe: Sweet Potato Soup 


4 large sweet potatoes (peeled & cut into equal size large dice)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 cup chicken stock (add more if you like your soup a little thinner)
1/4 cup chopped sage (garnish)
crumbled bacon or pancetta (garnish)


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Put sweet potatoes on sheet tray and toss with olive oil, salt & pepper.  Roast for 45 minutes to an hour until fork tender.
Remove from oven and transfer to food processor. Add chicken stock and pulse until well combined. Transfer sweet potatoes to medium saucepan and add nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste.  Warm through and serve. Add sage and bacon for garnish. Serves 4. Enjoy!


Paleo Pairing: Barbera & Chicken Marinara

It looks like mother nature has an interesting sense of humor. We are expecting  a foot of snow in coastal Virginia.  Since I will be snowed in for the next few days, I will need to get creative with my Paleo Pairings this week. Tonight, my meal was inspired by a nice bottle of Barbera.

My Paleo Pairing for day 28 features Chicken Marinara & Barbera.  Barbera is a grape from the Piedmont region of Northwest Italy. It is one of my go to pizza wines. It is the 3rd most planted grape in Italy.  Barbera is high in acidity and low in tannins making it a versatile food friendly wine. Barbera also offers great value.  The Wall Street Journal recently posted a great piece on Barbera wines. You will normally see Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d’Alba on wine labels. That simply means the Barbera grape from the Asti or Alba region. Pio Cesare and Vietti are excellent producers.


4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 cup olive oil

Easy Marinara Sauce

1 can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano)
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1 onion (small dice)
1/4 cup dry red wine (Barbera)
1 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. sugar


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

For the easy marinara sauce, heat olive over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds to release aromatics. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer over low heat.

Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Dredge in almond flour, making sure chicken is well coated. Heat olive oil in large sauté pan (oven proof). Sear chicken for about 5-7 minutes, until golden brown. Turn chicken and place pan in oven for 25 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes. Top with marinara sauce and serve.


Chicken Satay & Gewürztraminer

Chicken satay is a great low-carb choice for those us of watching the scale. This is a great meal, but the perfect pairing can take it to a whole new level. While a Riesling is a go-to match, a Gewürztraminer works just as well.  Gewürztraminer is an aromatic white grape that grows best in cooler climates. Some of the world’s best Gewürztraminer’s come from Alsace, France.  This varietal tends to boast tropical, stone and candied citrus fruit notes followed by fragrant floral notes, sweet spice of ginger and a touch of residual sugar.  I really like the way the sweet spice creates the perfect complement to the spicy satay sauce. The Trimbach is one of my go to Gewürztraminer’s. The Finger Lakes region of New York is also producing some excellent aromatic white wines.

Recommended Producer:

Recipe: Chicken Satay


Chicken Skewers

4 chicken breasts or thighs  (cut into strips)
2 limes (juice & zest)
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pepper

Satay Sauce 

1/2 cup almond or cashew butter
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 lime (juice)
2 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 scallions (chopped for garnish)


Thread chicken strips on skewers. Set aside. Brush a thin coat of grapeseed or olive oil on grill pan and heat until very hot. Add chicken to grill pan and let cook for about 4-5 minutes per side.

While the chicken is cooking, take a small sauce pan and add coconut milk and almond butter and simmer over low heat until combined. Add the rest of the ingredients and remove from heat. Put sauce in serving dish and top with scallions. Serve warm with chicken skewers.



Paleo Pairing: Beef Tenderloin & Napa Cab

The last Sunday of our Paleo Pairing challenge calls for a succulent beef tenderloin and a Napa Cab!

My Paleo Pairing for day 26 features a 2008 “Eileen” Cabernet Sauvignon from Chiarello Vineyards with Beef Tenderloin & Bordeaux Reduction.  This wine is full-bodied and complex with bold dark fruit of blackberry and cassis, a hint of mocha, velvety tannins and a long elegant finish. This wine is  a real powerhouse and the perfect match for beef tenderloin.  We had our first bottle of this for our anniversary last year at Michael Chiarello’s restaurant Bottega in Yountville, California. I have become a big fan of the Chiarello Family Vineyards.  We ordered this wine from their website.  It’s a little bit of slurge, but worth every penny!





3lb beef tenderloin
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

Bordeaux Reduction

1 package of baby portobellos
2 shallots
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. Worcestershire
1 bottle Bordeaux (under $15)
4 thyme sprigs
4 rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. peppercorns


Heat olive oil in large pot, add shallots and mushrooms and cook for about 15 minutes until slightly caramelized. Add sugar and stir. Let cook for another 5 minutes to get a really deep caramelized color. Add worcestershire sauce and stir. Add wine and bring to a boil. Leave the sauce on a low boil for about 20-25 minutes until the wine reduces by about half.  Add chicken or beef stock and the rest of the seasoning and bring to a boil. Once the sauce comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 45 minutes.  Makes approximately cups of reduction. Sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance.

The meat will sear better if you remove the beef from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan on cooking it. Pat the beef tenderloin with paper towel to remove excess moisture. Add salt & pepper on all side of the tenderloin.  In a dutch oven of oven proof pan, sear tenderloin on all sides – about 5-7 minutes total.  Transfer to oven and cook for 22-24 minutes for medium rare. Remove from oven and transfer to platter and cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing.  Serve with reduction sauce and a side of roasted asparagus.

Butternut Squash Soup & Torrontes

Butternut squash soup with toasted sage and crabmeat is a classic fall dish. When it comes to wine for this hearty, decadent and creamy soup, I  typically reach for a nice Chardonnay aged in french oak to accentuate the baking spices in the dish, but I always like to mix things up a little with a great little sipper from South America.  Torrontes is Argentina’s signature white grape. It’s an aromatic varietal boasting beautiful floral notes of jasmine and roses,  stone fruit aromas, vibrant citrus along with a hint of honey, white pepper and sometimes herbs.

Depending on the producer, this wine can be a bit reminiscent of a Viognier or Gewurtztraminer.  The wine is light to medium-bodied with vibrant acidity similar to a Sauvignon Blanc that make it a great match with this soup. The acidity leaves your palate feeling refreshed in between bites and the brininess in the crab meat makes the wine’s fruit flavors come to life. You can serve this as a traditional soup or you can use it for an intriguing appetizer for guests as I have illustrated with this image. And of course, if you’re feeling a bit more traditional, you can grab your favorite bottle of Chardonnay for this dish.

Recommended Producers

Susana Balbo “Crios” Torrontes, Mendoza, Argentina (SRP: $12) 
Kaiken Torrontes, Salta, Argentina(SRP: $14)

Recipe: Butternut Squash w/Toasted Sage & Crabmeat 


1/4 cup olive oil
2 butternut squash
2 apples (Gala or MacIntosh)
1 onion
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. clove
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tsp. white pepper
8 oz crabmeat
10 sage leaves (julienned)


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut ends off squash and slice down the middle. Drizzle with olive oil, a pinch of salt & pepper and place upside down in large roasting pan. Pierce some holes in skin. Peel apples and slice in 4, add to the pan, peel and cut onions in quarters and add to pan. Add one cup of chicken stock to the pan and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Let cool slightly and scoop squash out of the skins and place in food processor along with onion and apple. Pulse ingredients for about 30 seconds. Add 1 cup chicken stock and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a medium-large saucepan. Add coconut milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg & clove and heat over low heat until warmed through.

In a small saute pan, add 2 tbsp. olive oil, sage & crabmeat and cook for about 2-3 minutes over low-medium heat until crab is warm.

Spoon soup into a bowl and top with crab & sage mixture. Add diced apples for garnish and texture.  Serves 4.








Chicken Lettuce Wraps & Vinho Verde

Chicken Lettuce Wraps paired with a bright, effervescent Vinho Verde is an excellent pairing on a warm day.  Vinho Verde comes from the Minho provence along the coast of northern  Portugal. Vinho Verde is not a grape varietal, but rather a region. The term Vinho Verde means “green wine.” There are more than two dozen permitted white grapes including Alvarinho in Vinho Verde.  These wines are simple and refreshing with bright citrus notes, a hint of salinity due to the proximity of the Atlantic ocean and vibrant acidity. You will also find a light effervescence to this wine because many winemakers add a touch of carbon dioxide before bottling.  It’s a great summer sipper. It’s also excellent with mexican food and seafood. Drink young. The best part, these wines are incredible affordable starting at about $9 for a decent bottle.  Check out the Gazela. I like the way the lime notes bring out the cilantro in the lettuce wraps. Of course, there are some wonderfully complex Vinho Verdes that come with a higher price tag. Looking for a little splurge, check out the Monte Cascas (SRP: under $20).  This wine boasts aromas of freshly squeezed key lime juice, honeydew melon & agave nectar tantalizing your senses. This a light, dry & crisp summer wine with piercing acidity. It’s the perfect accompaniment to an array of fresh Mexican dishes especially Guacamole with lime infused tortilla chips. If you are going to add some spice to your lettuce wraps, reach for bottle of off-dry Riesling. The touch of residual sugar is the perfect pairing for spicy fare.

Recipe: Chicken Lettuce Wraps 


8 lettuce leaves (Bibb)
1 avocado
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lime (juice)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1/2 cup salsa
2 scallions (thinly sliced)


In a small bowl, mash avocado with salt, pepper, cumin & garlic powder. Set aside. In a separate bowl toss shredded chicken, lime juice and cilantro.  Separate and wash lettuce leaves and pat dry with paper towel. Divide avocado spread among the 8 lettuce leaves. Top with shredded chicken mixture. Add salsa & scallions. Serve immediately.

Paleo Pairing: Vino Nobile & Swordfish

When it comes to food, there’s nothing better than a hearty Italian meal shared with family & friends. I have such a passion for Italian cooking and believe it or not there’s so much more than bread and cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore cheese, but we all know it’s not Paleo friendly. So tonight I am making a dish you would typically find in northern Italy. A flavorful roasted swordfish with eggplant, capers and tomatoes paired with an awesome Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Most people tend to reach for a white wine with swordfish, but keep in mind it depends on the type of fish and the sauce also plays a huge role in determining the right wine pairing. Swordfish is a rich, meaty fish and can definitely stand up to a red wine.  For this dish, I mirrored the acidity of the sauce with my wine selection.  The eggplant, tomatoes and rosemary are a great flavor profile to pair with the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. If you were doing a lemon sauce, I would stick with a dry white wine like a Pinot Bianco or Falanghina.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano comes from Tuscany and is one of three Sangiovese DOCG zones in the region.  Vino Nobile is  made from the Sangiovese Prugnolo grape whereas Brunello di Montalcino is made from Sangiovese Grosso and Chianti is made from the Sangiovese Piccolo grape.  They are all different mutations of Sangiovese. Vino Nobile is also the smallest zone. This area produces exceptional wines that are typically medium-bodied with vibrant red fruit of raspberry and cherry, hints of anise and tea, velvety tannins and vibrant acidity.  If you love Brunello, but don’t love the price tag, grab a bottle of this.

For tonight’s meal, I opened up a 2009 Corte alla Flora. I picked this up at Sirena’s in Norfolk for under $30. They offer 40% off the menu price for to-go wines. They have an awesome selection of Italian wines.


4 swordfish steaks
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves minced
2 tbsp. capers
1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tbsp. pepper
1 red onion (medium dice)
1 eggplant (medium dice)
1-28oz can whole tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dry red wine (Vino Nobile, Pinot, Chianti, Barbera)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine onions and eggplant and place on a sheet tray with 2 tbsp olive oil, a pinch of salt & pepper and roast for 45 minutes. Set aside.

Once veggies are roasted, heat olive oil in ovenproof dutch oven or large skillet over low-medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds to release aromatics. Add  wine and let reduce for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and break up with fork. Add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, roasted veggies, rosemary sprigs & capers.  Stir until well combined.

Pat dry swordfish with paper towels. Season with salt & pepper. Arrange swordfish steaks on top of tomato mixture and bake for 12 minutes until cooked through.  Toss in parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 4.



Five-Spice Chicken Soup & Riesling

Asian five-spice is a staple in my pantry, it adds so much flavor to so many dishes. This five-star soup recipe takes chicken soup to a whole new dimension.  The great thing about this soup is that you can pretty much add as many veggies as you like. I like my soup with an extra kick, so I added some jalapeno in addition to the five-spice which is typically a blend of (star anise, cloves, cinnamon, sichuan pepper & fennel).

I am opting for an off-dry Riesling to accentuate the five-spice powder in the soup.  Remember,  you want to pay attention to the spices and sauces when pairing wines.  I really like the way a Riesling cools the palate with a touch of residual sweetness and also  makes the flavors pop with its vibrant acidity. The best Rieslings in the world come from Germany, particularly from the regions of Mosel and Rheingau. The steep slate slopes add a minerality that can’t be found anywhere else. Riesling is also known for its piercing acidity that make it an incredible partner with an array of dishes.

For an affordable weeknight pairing under $15, here are a few recommended producers that are widely available for purchase.

Recommended Producers 

High-Def Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $12)
Dr. Loosen”Dr. L” Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $13)
Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA (SRP: $14)

Recipe: Five-Spice Chicken Soup


2 tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil
1 leek (thinly sliced)
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 jalapeño (seeded)
2 tbsp. five-spice (if you like a milder version, only add 1 tbsp and omit the jalapeno)
1/2 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 head bok choy (chopped)
1 red pepper (julienned)
1 cup broccoli (chopped)
1 zucchini (sliced)
2 cups shredded chicken
32 oz homemade chicken stock or organic
1 cup coconut milk
scallions (optional for garnish)


In a large stock pot, heat olive oil and add leeks. Let cook for about 5-7 minutes until translucent, add garlic and jalapeno and cook for about 30 seconds to release aromatics. Add 5 spice, salt & pepper and stir with veggies to release the oils in the spice. Add the rest of the veggies, chicken stock & coconut milk and let cook for about 30 minutes until all flavors are well combined. Add additional stock or water if needed to make sure veggies are covered. Add 2 cups of cooked shredded chicken and warm through. Serve immediately. Add chopped scallions for garnish.

When I don’t have time to make a roast chicken, I usually poach alot of chicken on Sundays and shred it while it’s warm. This way I have plenty of chicken on hand to add to weeknight recipes.  To poach chicken, take a large stock pot and add enough water or chicken stock to cover chicken breasts.  Add 1 tbsp. peppercorns, 1 tbsp. sea salt, 1 bay leaf, 1 tbsp. garlic powder and 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning to flavor the chicken.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat right away to low and cook another 15-20  minutes. Drain and let cool. Shred or slice chicken.

Hummus w/Crudités & Sauvignon Blanc

In general, veggies can be quite challenging to pair with wine. However; the crisp, clean and refreshing nature of a Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most reliable pairings with an array of raw and cooked vegetables.  Although, there are some variations on the flavor profile of the varietal depending on where it comes from, stylistically speaking. Sauvignon Blancs have abundant citrus notes of grapefruit with lemon and lime, lots of fresh cut grassy aromas and vibrant acidity that make it a perfect companion with green salads, mild guacamole and hummus with crudités.  The New Zealand and Chilean style are going to be a little more assertive with the citrus fruit. Sancerre’s are a little more restrained with lots of minerality and more acidity and many Napa Sauvignon Blancs boast a little more tropical fruit aromas in addition to the citrus fruit as a result of the warmer microclimate.

Here are a few of the Sauvignon Blanc producers at varying price points that I recommend. Chile is producing some of the best values today.

Not a Sauvignon Blanc fan? Check out an Albarino, Pinot Grigio or Vinho Verde as an alternative pairing. Store bought hummus is an easy way to go, but if you are looking for a paleo friendly option, try this delicious zucchini hummus recipe.

Recipe: Zucchini Hummus 


3/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 large zucchini (peeled & chopped)
1 meyer lemon (zest & juice)
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts (plus more for garnish)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
paprika (garnish)


In a food processor add tahini, lemon zest & juice and garlic. Pulse for about 30 seconds until well combined. Add zucchini, pulse for another 30 seconds. Add pine nuts, salt, pepper & olive oil and pulse until well combines.  Makes 2 cups.  Transfer to serving bowl, add toasted pine nuts, drizzle of olive oil and paprika for garnish. Serve with fresh veggies.

Paleo Pairing: Lemon-Caper Flounder & Bordeaux Blanc

My 31 day Paleo challenge continues with my day 18 recipe of pan seared flounder with lemon & capers and a refreshing Bordeaux Blanc.  When most people think of Bordeaux, they tend to think of the world renowned rustic reds, but there are some phenomenal white wines from Bordeaux that are incredibly food friendly. I like to refer to them as the “other” Bordeaux. The white varietals are blended, just like the reds. The main white varietals are Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion and Muscadelle.  These are extremely approachable in their youth. The world famous dessert wine Sauternes is also made from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.

When seeking out a Bordeaux Blanc look for labels that say Graves, Pessac-Léognan, or Entre-Deux-Mers.

For a splurge, I love the Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc Pessac. This particular wine retails for about $45, however there are some really great ones under $15 a bottle. Keep your eyes open for the following producers Chateau de Bonhoste and Chateau Reynon Blanc.


2  flounder fillets (skinless)
2 tbsp. olive oil or grapeseed oil
1/4 cup almond flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. capers
1 small shallot (fine dice)
1 meyer lemon (zest & juice)
1/4 cup dry white wine (Bordeaux Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio)


Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt & pepper and dredge in almond flour. Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat until hot.  Add flounder and cook for about 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove from pan and cover with aluminum foil.  Add shallots and let cook for about 30 seconds. Add wine and deglaze pan.  Add lemon juice, zest and capers and let cook for about 5 minutes to reduce the pan sauce and cook out the alcohol in the wine. Pour pan sauce over fish and serve immediately. Serve with broccolini and mashed parsnips. Serves 2.


5 Spice Stir Fry & Evolution

I was inspired once again by my spice cabinet tonight.  I reached for my 5 spice (star anise, cinnamon, clove, fennel, sichuan pepper), chicken and a bunch of veggies and whipped up a great stir fry and paired it with Evolution.

Evolution is a blend of 9 grapes (Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, Gewurtzraminer, Muller-Thurgau, Semillon, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner & Chardonnay).  Evolution by Sokol Blosser features aromas of lemon curd, tropical fruit and nectarine.  The wine has a beautiful crisp finish with vibrant fruit. It makes for a phenomenal pairing with stir-fry, sushi and Thai food.  It’s  also a great picnic wine or summer sipper. I picked this up at Whole Foods for under $15.

Recipe: 5 Spice Stir Fry


4 6-oz chicken breasts (thinly sliced)
1 tbsp. olive oil or grapeseed oil
1/4 cup homemade chicken stock
1 tbsp. 5 spice powder
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tbsp. fresh minced garlic
2 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1 leek (thinly sliced)
1 red bell pepper (julienned)
2 cups broccoli
1 head baby bok choy (chopped)


Thinly slice chicken breasts, put in plastic bag or bowl and toss with sesame oil, 5 spice powder and sea salt.  Let marinate for about 30 minutes.

In a wok or large saute pan, heat olive or grapeseed oil over medium-high heat.  Sear chicken in batches. About 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside in a bowl. Reduce heat to medium-low and add leeks, garlic and ginger. Saute for about 1 minute to release aromatics. Add pepper, broccoli,  bok choy & chicken stock.. Let cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add chicken back in until heated through. Serves 4-6.


Paleo Pairing: Roast Chicken & Ramey Chardonnay

I am revamping my favorite roast chicken recipe and making it Paleo friendly for today’s Paleo Pairing by substituting an olive oil rub for my herb butter and I am also nixing the mashed potatoes.

16 days of a dairy-free, grain-free diet hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be. It does however require a lot of planning and prep in the kitchen. I will definitely incorporate parts of the Paleo philosophy as part of my diet beyond my January challenge, but I am looking forward to having an occasional treat and reintroducing butter and cheese.

My Paleo Pairing for day 16 of my month-long Paleo challenge features Roast Chicken & Ramey Chardonnay.  Check out my other favorite California Chardonnay producers here.


4-5lb chicken
1 lemon (quartered)
1 head of garlic (cut in half)
1/2 spanish onion
handful thyme & rosemary sprigs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbs Herbs de Provence (mix with olive oil)
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil for drizzle


Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove giblets from chicken cavity and generously salt & pepper cavity.  Stuff the bird with lemon, onion, garlic, thyme & rosemary sprigs. Place chicken in small roasting pan with a rack and truss the legs.  Gently separate the skin from the chicken breast and smear the herbs de provence mixture underneath the skin. This is a great trick that keeps the chicken super juicy! Drizzle a little more olive oil on top of the skin and season with salt & pepper.  Roast chicken for about 1 hr and 15 min or until juices run clear and meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.   A good rule of thumb is about 15 minutes per pound at 425 degrees. If the chicken is getting too brown on the outside, cover with aluminum foil half way through roasting and remove at the end to ensure you have nice crispy skin.

Ahi Tuna & Riesling

There are some nights when we simply need a nutritious meal that we can plate up in a matter of minutes.  Seared Ahi Tuna is one of my favorite meals to whip up on a busy night.

When pairing wine with Ahi Tuna, there are many varietals that make a good partner. Ahi is a pretty dense, fatty fish, that requires a wine with vibrant acidity. I am opting for an off-dry Riesling to accentuate the five-spice powder on the Ahi.  Like many other dishes, you want to focus on the spices and sauces when pairing wines.  The best Rieslings in the world come from Germany, particularly from the regions of Mosel and Rheingau. The steep slate slopes add a minerality that can’t be found anywhere else. Riesling is also known for its piercing acidity that make it an incredible partner with an array of dishes.

For an affordable weeknight pairing under $15, here are a few recommended producers.

Recommended Producers 

Recipe: Seared Ahi Tuna 


2 6-oz ahi tuna steaks
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. of five-spice powder
1 tsp. of sea salt


Pat dry tuna steaks. Brush tuna with olive oil and add five-spice powder and sea salt. Heat cast-iron skillet over high heat with a tsp. of light cooking olive oil until very hot. Sear tuna for about 1 minute and a half on each side for medium rare.  Slice tuna and place over a bed of greens or mixed veggies.

Acorn Squash & Schug Chardonnay

There’s nothing like homemade comfort food and a nice glass of wine to soothe your soul on a chilly night. Stuffed acorn squash makes me long for Thanksgiving. The aromas of baked apple and cinnamon wafting through the air just makes me smile. It tastes so decadent. You feel like you are giving into your cravings, but it’s actually quite good for you.

I am pairing this sweet and savory treat with a glass of oaked Chardonnay.  Oak imparts a lot of complex flavor in a wine like those beautiful baking spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. These flavors are particularly noticeable when a wine is aged in French Oak.  I really enjoyed the Schug Chardonnay from Carneros with this dish. This wine also works well with crab bisques, roast chicken and an array of seafood dishes.  It’s a great wine for under $30. A little fun fact; Walter Schug, the founder of Schug Carneros was also responsible for creating America’s first bordeaux style blend – Insignia.

When buying a Chardonnay from California, I gravitate to Russian River Valley, Carneros and Santa Barbara. These micro-climates are perfect for the Chardonnay grape.  Sonoma-Cutrer is pretty reliable from vintage to vintage for under $20. I also really enjoy Jordan, Cakebread, Grgich, Ramey and Rombauer Chardonnay.

Recipe: Roasted Acorn Squash


1 acorn squash
1 apple (peeled & diced)
1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup craisins
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves (small pinch)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. walnut or grapeseed oil


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut a small piece off bottom, so you have a level suface. Take out seeds and place upside down in a roasting pan and add about 1/2 cup water and roast for 45 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, mix remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.  After 45 minutes remove squash from oven, turn over and stuff with apple mixture. Place back in the oven for an additional 45 minutes. Serves 2.


Paleo Pairing: Fish en Papillote & Chardonnay

Today marks day 6 of my 31 day Paleo challenge and I am still going strong. I have found that the key to succeeding with the Paleo plan for me is lots of flavor!  It’s way too easy to indulge in a sweet or savory treat when you feel deprived on diets. Fortunately, there are so many amazing natural flavors available on the Paleo plan that it’s super easy to create a culinary sensation that will please your palate.

Tonight’s Paleo Pairing features Citrus & Herb Fish en Papillote and Chardonnay. I am using a Turbot filet from Whole Foods. It’s a white flaky, buttery fish that’s similar to flounder but a little thicker. Don’t be intimidated by this preparation, it’s way easier than it seems and it makes clean up a breeze. I also love the fact that you can add just about any aromatic or veggies you want.

As for the wine,  I have mentioned in previous posts, wine is allowed in moderation on Paleo. That means a 4oz glass of wine per day for a woman or twice that for a man. Make sure you are keeping track of your pours. It’s way too easy to pour too much wine in a glass. For tonight’s dinner, I am reaching for a rich buttery Chardonnay to match the buttery texture of the fish. Bon Appetit!


Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

Parchment Paper
2-6oz Turbot Fillets (Bass or Halibut also works well)
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup white wine (you can use Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc)
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 orange sliced
1 lemon sliced
4 sprigs of thyme
4 sprigs of rosemary
Pinch sea salt
Pinch of pepper


Take 2 large pieces of parchment paper (about a 2o inch square), fold in half. Unfold paper and place rosemary & thyme sprigs near crease. Then add fish fillet on top of the herbs. Sprinkle fish with a pinch of sea salt & pepper, slices of garlic and drizzle 1 tsp. of olive oil on the fillet, then top with 1/2 the orange slices and 1/2 the lemon slices. Pour 1/2 the white wine over fish and fold along the edges and seal with a paper clip. Repeat with second fillet. Place packets in a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes.  Cut packets down the middle and serve in the packet or remove with a spatula and serve on a plate. Serve with a side of steamed veggies.

WINE RECOMMENDATIONS: Since, I am based in Norfolk, Virginia, I have included wine shops in my general area that carry these wines for your convenience.

Everyday Wine – Under $15

Seven Falls Chardonnay, Washington State – Available at Yianni’s Wine Shop (Virginia Beach)
Steele Chardonnay, California – Available at Yianni’s Wine Shop
Rodney Strong Chardonnay, Sonoma, California – Available at Total Wine

Mid-Priced $16-$30

Church Creek Chardonnay Steel, Chatham Vineyards, Eastern Shore, Virginia – Available at Grape & Gourmet or direct from Chatham Vineyards
Jordan Chardonnay, Napa, California – Available at Total Wine
Schug Chardonnay, Carneros, California – Available at Yianni’s Wine Shop (Virginia Beach)