Crab Cakes & Chardonnay

Succulent, sweet lump crab meat paired with a rich, full-bodied Chardonnay is simply a match made in heaven. The bright lemon notes in the wine bring out the sweetness in the crabmeat and the luxurious mouth-coating quality of an oaked, slightly buttery Chardonnay makes this an outstanding pairing with crab cakes. Drizzle a little butter on the crab cakes before baking and really bring out the creamy, buttery characteristics in the wine. The buttery flavors in the wine come from a winemaking process known as malolactic fermentation, this produces the diacetyl compound which gives the wine a creamy, dairy, buttery quality. Grab your favorite Chardonnay or try one of my favorite producers from California. These producers are known for making a more Old World Style of Chardonnay, in an effort to retain the bright, vibrant fruit notes and also maintaining a higher level of acidity.

Recommended Producers

Recipe: Gluten Free Crab Cakes (Serves 4) 


3 tbsp. olive oil
16 oz crab meat
1 egg
1 lemon (juice & zest)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 celery stalk (fine dice)
1/2 small onion (fine dice)
1/2 red bell pepper (fine dice)
1 bag of Cape Cod Chips (finely ground in food processor)


Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium saucepan, add minced veggies and sauté for 5-7 minutes until tender. Transfer to medium bowl. Let cool for about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, zest, parsley, worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper and mix all ingredients. Fold in crab. Make 4 crab cakes of equal proportion and dredge both sides of all crab cakes in flour. Transfer to plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Since we are not using breadcrumbs in this recipe, this is an important step to make sure the crab cakes stay intact when cooking.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix 1 tbsp. olive oil & 1 tsp. of Old Bay Seasoning. Place crab cakes on sheet pan and drizzle with Old Bay oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve over a bed of greens with lemon vinaigrette.

Paleo Pairing: Short Ribs & Syrah

A snow day calls for a hearty meal of braised short ribs paired with a big meaty Syrah. I gave my delicious short rib sliders a Paleo friendly make-over.

My Paleo Pairing for day 29 features Short Ribs & Syrah! The Cakebread Cellars Syrah is outstanding with this dish. A great bold, jammy & spicy Zinfandel would also do the trick. Check out some of my go to Zins here.


8 short ribs (trimmed of excess fat)
Salt  & Pepper
2 tbls. olive oil

4 carrots
4 stalks of celery
1 large yellow onion
1/2 medium fennel bulb
4 sprigs rosemary & thyme
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 bottle dry red wine (Bordeaux, Cotes du Rhone, Chianti)
1 qt. low-sodium, gluten-free chicken stock
1 tbsp. juniper berries
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce


Pre-heat oven to 350°

In a large dutch oven, drizzle a thin layer of oil over medium heat. Pat dry meat with paper towels in order to get a better sear. Generously coat short ribs with salt and pepper.   Once the oil has a slight shimmer place the short ribs in pan and let brown on all sides – about 4-5 minutes per side. Patience is key here. This is where all the flavor develops.

While the beef is caramelizing, place carrots, celery, onion, garlic and ½ the fennel bulb in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Once beef is browned on all sides, remove from pan.  Add chopped veggies to the beef rendering and caramelize for 10-12 minutes.  Once veggies are caramelized, add tomato paste and let cook 2 minutes.  Add red wine and deglaze pan. Let reduce for 10 minutes.  Add 1 quart low sodium chicken or beef stock, rosemary & thyme bundle, juniper berries and bay leaf and stir.  Gently place short ribs in dutch oven. Make sure there’s enough liquid covering all the ribs. You can add extra stock if needed.

Cover dutch oven and place in oven at 350° for 4 hours. Check halfway through the cooking process and turn the meat and ensure it’s fully covered.  Serve short ribs over smashed sweet potatoes.


Paleo Pairing: Beef Tacos & Zinfandel

Since tacos are a staple in so many households I thought it would be fun to create a Paleo version.  I substituted lettuce wraps for tortillas and used mashed avocados in place of sour cream.  The result was a healthy tasty taco that I will definitely make again.

My Paleo Pairing for day 19 features beef tacos in lettuce wraps paired with a Zinfandel.  You can also opt for a Riesling if you like your tacos on the super spicy side. Other wine pairings would include a Barbera or Beaujolais for a milder version.

Refer to my chili wine pairing for a detailed analysis of spicy food pairings and recommendations on some great Zinfandels.


1 lb lean ground beef (93%)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small jalapeno (seeded and diced)
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

8 lettuce leaves (Boston lettuce)
2 avocados (mashed)
diced tomatoes (garnish)
scallions (garnish)


Heat olive oil in medium skillet, add beef and let brown.  Add jalapeno and the rest of the seasoning and combine. Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes to combine all the flavors.

Rinse lettuce leaves and pat dry with paper towels. Take a spoonful of smashed avocados, add beef, diced tomatoes and scallions. Serve immediately. Serves 2-4.

Beef Bourguignon & Burgundy

Julia Child started inspiring amateur cooks and housewives across America when she first brought us her famous Boeuf Bourguignon recipe on The French ChefThis recipe takes about 30 minutes to pull together and another 2 plus hours for cooking, but it’s so worth it! Plus, you’ll have lots of leftovers.

The classic pairing for beef bourguignon is none other than an elegant Burgundy.  For those that don’t know, red Burgundy is made from 100% Pinot Noir from the Burgundy region of France. Until recently, French wine laws did not allow producers to put the varietal on the label.  A change in wine laws now permits this to help European wine makers compete on a more global scale. However, many producers in France are very traditional and have not implemented these changes. When you are shopping in a wine store and see Burgundy on the label and no mention of Pinot Noir, rest assured it’s made from the Pinot grape. There is one exception to this – Beaujolais. Beaujolais is an appellation within Burgundy that’s known for a red wine made from the Gamay grape. While Grand Cru Burgundies are among the most sought after collectible wines in the world, there are some great values out there.  Your best values are going to come from the Côte Chalonnaise in southern Burgundy. Look for the following region on the bottles (Rully, Mercurey and Givrey). With that said, your favorite Pinot Noir will work just fine with this dish. I am going to stay true to the French tradition and reach for a bottle of Burgundy! Here are a few great choices for some inspiration if you want to explore a Burgundy.

Recipe: Beef Bourguignon (Note: This is my paleo-friendly version)


3 lbs pot roast (stew meat)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 & 1/2 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. Herbs de Provence
4 thyme & rosemary sprigs (tie with kitchen string)
1/2 bottle of Pinot Noir or Burgundy
1 tbsp. tomato paste

1 medium yellow onion (medium dice)
2 small sweet potatoes (medium dice)
4 carrots (cut on angle – 1/2 inch pieces)
2 parsnips (cut on angle – 1/2 inch pieces)
1 cup portobello mushrooms (sliced)
1 bag of pearl onions
1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped)


Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Pat beef dry with paper towels. Season with salt, pepper & garlic powder on all sides. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat.
Sear beef in batches. About 3-4 minutes per side should give you a nice sear. Don’t crowd the pan! Transfer beef to a bowl. Set aside. Add diced onion to pan and cook for about 5-10 minutes in beef fat to get another layer of flavor. Add carrots, sweet potatoes, & parsnips. Mix with onions to get all your veggies covered with all that beefy goodness. Add tomato paste and integrate with veggies.  Add wine a little at a time and deglaze the pan.  Add stew meat back to pan, mushrooms, Herbs de Provence, rosemary & thyme sprigs and chicken or beef stock. Make sure all the meat and veggies are covered. Cook for at least 2 hours in the oven. I usually let mine cook for about 3 hours. The longer you cook it, the more tender the beef is. If you choose to thicken the sauce, mix 1 tbsp. almond flour and 1 tbsp. grape seed or olive oil in a small ramekin until well combined and add to stew.  Add parsley and serve. Serves 8.


Paleo Pairing: Baked Omelet & Prosecco

Ever wonder what to pair with an omelet? Look no further than a nice glass of bubbly. Today’s Paleo Pairing is all about breakfast for dinner.
Eggs are pretty challenging to pair with wine, but a glass of sparkling wine works like a charm. I often go for a sparkling rose like the J Brut Rose from Sonoma, California, but I also love a fun, flirty Prosecco with omelets and frittatas. There are a lot of great Prosecco’s out there. I really enjoy the
Tesoro della Regina and the Montelliana Prosecco. Both retail for about $15.

One of the things that I love the most about making omelets is that you they are pretty much a blank canvas, you can add anything you want to it.
For tonight’s omelet, I added leftover roasted veggies and pesto shrimp.  Feel free to add any veggies or meat that you like.


12 eggs (8 whole eggs, 4 egg whites)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. Herbs de Provence
2 cups roasted or sauteed veggies


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix eggs in medium bowl with seasonings. Coat a square baking dish (9X9) with olive oil. Add veggies and protein if desired. Top with eggs and bake for 45-50 minutes until eggs are set. Bon Appetit.


Sautéed Shrimp & Albarino

Sautéed garlic shrimp paired with a crisp refreshing Albarino from the Rias Baixas region of Northwest Spain. Albarino is an indigenous varietal to Spain, most are fermented in stainless steel. It’s one of my go to summer wines. They offer a tremendous value and they come alive with white flower, bright citrus and a touch of brininess due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.  This is one of the quickest and easiest dishes to pull together, for those of you in a time crunch. Try one of these outstanding Albarino’s with sautéed shrimp, fish tacos, and an array of seafood dishes.

Recommended Producers

Burgans Albarino, Rias Biaxas, Spain (SRP: $13)
Martin Codax Albarino, Rias Biaxas, Spain (SRP: $15)
Pazo de Senorans Albarino, Rias Biaxas, Spain (SRP: $20)

Recipe: Sautéed Garlic Shrimp (Serves 4) 


1lb shrimp 16/20 count (peeled & deveined)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 lemon juiced & zest
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half (optional)
5 oz. of spinach (optional)
1/4 cup white wine (Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)


In a large saute pan, heat olive oil and add shrimp. Saute shrimp and cook for about 4 minutes, turning half way through. Remove with slotted spoon into bowl. Set aside. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for about 30 seconds to release aromatics. Add white wine, tomatoes, spinach and cook until spinach wilts. Add shrimp back to pan with lemon juice & zest until the shrimp is heated through.

Meyer Lemon Chicken & Virginia Viognier

I love using lemons and wine to cook with. The two combined provide a refreshing acidity to any dish and when you are going low carb, it’s all about packing a flavor punch. It’s easy to get bored with baked or poached chicken, so I spiced it up tonight a little with a Meyer Lemon Rosemary Chicken. I have found that almond flour is a great way to add a little texture to meat. You can use regular lemons, but I find Meyer lemons are a little sweeter and tend to pack more juice.

When choosing wine for this dish, you definitely want to stick with a white varietal and there are many that work. You want a wine that mirrors the citrus note and that has medium body. If you haven’t tried a Viognier, this is a great choice. Viognier is the official state grape of Virginia and is indigenous to the Rhone Valley of France. Viognier is quite unique, it tends to have the similar body of a Chardonnay, bright citrus notes of a Sauvignon Blanc and some of the floral aromatics of a Riesling. It’s a great choice when you are tired of the same old Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. It’s highly aromatic, but it’s not sweet.  Keep in mind Viognier is difficult to grow and can become bitter when conditions aren’t perfect.

Recommended Producers

There are several other wines that would work quite well with this dish such as a nice Chablis, Pouilly Fuisse or unoaked Chardonnay from the U.S. Since I am a Virginia girl, I need to recommend the Chatham Vineyards Church Creek Steel Chardonnay. They use dijon clones and make a really great unoaked Chardonnay with vibrant acidity and nice minerality that may remind you more of a Burgundian style than a typical American Chardonnay. It also offers a great value at under $20 a bottle.

Recipe: Lemon Rosemary Chicken (Paleo-friendly)


4-6oz chicken breasts
2 tbsp. olive oil (plus more for brushing)
1 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp pepper
1 tbsp Herbs de Provence (thyme, basil, savory, fennel & lavender)
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup dry white wine (Viognier, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Unoaked Chardonnay)
2 meyer lemons (zest from one)
rosemary sprigs for garnish


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush a thin coat of olive oil on the chicken, then sprinkle salt, pepper & Herbs de Provence on both sides of the chicken. Then dust both sides in a thin layer of almond flour to provide a little texture and nutty flavor.  Heat olive oil in a large saute pan (oven proof) and sear chicken on both sides for 5 minutes or until golden on each side.  This will help lock in the juices. Add  juice & zest from 1 lemon and 1/4 cup wine to the chicken. Put in oven and bake for 25 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with rosemary and lemon slices.

Swordfish & Viognier

Grilled swordfish with tropical salsa is such a refreshing meal on a warm evening. While there are several white wines that work well with this dish, a fuller-bodied style like a Chardonnay or Viognier is the best option. Swordfish is a dense cut of fish and requires a wine with equal weight.

Viognier is the official state grape of Virginia and is indigenous to the Rhone Valley of France. Viognier is quite unique, it tends to have the similar body of a Chardonnay, bright citrus notes of a Sauvignon Blanc and some of the floral aromatics of a Riesling. It’s a great choice when you are tired of the same old Chardonnay. It’s highly aromatic, with bountiful floral, citrus and tropical notes that are brought to life when paired with this tropical salsa.

Recommended Producers

Recipe: Swordfish with Tropical Salsa (4 servings) 


4-6 oz swordfish steaks
2 tbsp. olive oil, plus 1 tsp. for salsa
1 cup pineapple small dice
½ red bell pepper small dices
¼ cup red onion or one small shallot minced
1 avocado cubed
1 lime zest & juice
½ cup cilantro
sea salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp garlic powder (divided between 4 swordfish steaks)


Pat dry swordfish steaks and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper & garlic powder.  Set aside and prepare salsa.

In a bowl, mix together pineapple, pepper, onion, avocado, lime zest & juice, cilantro, 1 tsp of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Place a large saute pan or cast iron skillet with olive oil over medium high heat until hot. Add swordfish steaks and cook for approximately 3 minutes per side.

Remove from pan and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Top with a generous portion of salsa and a side of steamed veggies. Serves 4.



Cocoa Spiced Pork Tenderloin & Merlot

A great food and wine paring is one of life’s simple pleasures. I was inspired tonight by my spice cabinet, namely my cocoa spice rub from Napa Style. This is a delicious blend of cinnamon, grey salt, unsweetened cocoa powder, coriander, nutmeg, cloves & pepper. This makes for a delicious crust on pork and beef.

I paired this cocoa spiced pork tenderloin paired with a fruity, elegant Merlot. I used Michael Chiarello’s recipe Seared Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa Spice Rub for tonight’s main course. You can also buy the cocoa spice rub online at Napa Style.

There are a varietals that come to mind with this dish namely a Merlot and a Zinfandel. I would normally navigate away from a Merlot with pork tenderloin because it’s so lean and you really don’t need a high tannic structure for leaner meats.  However,  I really love the way the bright plum fruit in Merlot enhances the cocoa notes in the spice.

It’s unfortunate that Merlot gets such a bad wrap. Who can forget the movie Sideways and the main character Miles’ disdain for Merlot. The irony in the movie comes when he is describing his most treasured bottle of wine in his collection and he refers to a Right Bank Bordeaux which just so happens to be a Merlot dominant blend.  That little fact is never mentioned in the movie. A little trivia for you!  Anyhow, I digress.  While there are plenty of bad Merlots out there, there are also many of bad Pinots, Cabs and any other varietals too, but there are also a lot of really great Merlots on the market. Here are a few great producers including a great value out of Washington State and a splurge out of Napa!

Recommended Producers

Seven Falls Merlot, Wahluke Slope, Washington State  (SRP: $14)
Charles Krug Merlot, Napa, California (SRP: $25)
Pride Mountain Merlot, Napa, California (SRP: $55)

I also like they way a Zinfandel brings out the spice notes in the rub.  Either way, you really can’t go wrong with this dish. Pork tenderloin, much like poultry is pretty bland on its own, so your seasoning and sauces really matter when selecting the right wine.


Paleo Pairing: Salmon & Pinot Noir

Four days into my New Year’s resolution and I am still going strong with the Paleo plan. I have found that this plan is fairly easy to stick with as long as you take time to prepare ahead  The bonus for me is that The Paleo Diet allows wine in moderation and since I am a Sommelier, wine is an integral part of my daily living.  I am chronicling my journey through the month of January so I can introduce you to some great wine pairings for the nights you do want to indulge with a little sip of wine while sticking to your healthy resolution. Today’s recipe is a sumptuous meal that only takes minutes to prepare.

Day 4 Recipe: Seared Salmon w/Sauteed Spinach paired w/Pinot Noir


4 – 6oz salmon filets
11oz spinach
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp. dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio)
1 tbsp. Herbs de Provence
1 tsp. salt (plus a pinch for the spinach)
1/2 tsp. pepper (plus a pinch for the spinach)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees, then heat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until it’s hot.  While the cast iron skillet is heating up, take 1 tbsp. olive oil and lightly brush both sides of the salmon filets to ensure the seasonings adhere to the fish.  I am personally not a huge fan of the skin, so I have my fish monger take the skins off to make the cooking process a little easier. Keep in mind that you don’t need much olive oil because the fish has plenty of fat already. Once you have a thin coating of olive oil, sprinkle the fish with salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence.  Place salmon in skillet and cook for 2 minutes. Flip the fish and place in the oven for 5 minutes for medium rare-medium.

After you place the fish in the oven, drizzle the remaining olive oil in the pan with the garlic and let simmer for about 1 minute to release the aromatics.  Then add spinach and white wine and  let wilt. This usually takes about 2-3 minutes. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Remove fish from oven. Let rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve over a bed of spinach.

I have a couple of great wine pairings for this dish, depending on what you are in the mood for.  I really enjoy a Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier with this dish. I love the way the Herbs de Provence with its notes of lavender, thyme and rosemary bring out some of the beautiful notes in the Pinots.

If you are looking for a white wine, I absolutely love a great Sancerre with this meal.  Sancerre and salmon are an amazing pairing! If you are going with this option add a squeeze of lemon juice to the fish and spinach. The bright acidity and minerality cleanse your palate in between bites making you yearn for another delicious bite of that rich, succulent salmon. This is definitely a match made in heaven!

Bon Appetit!

Wine Recommendations: (I am including the places that the wine is available for people living Hampton Roads, Virginia.)

Pinot Noir

Under $20

Angeline Pinot Noir, California – Shady Grove Marketplace (Norfolk), Total Wine


Novy Pinot Meunier, California – Press 626 (Norfolk)


Talbott’s Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California – Yianni’s Wine Shop
Chateau de Chamirey, Mercurey, Burgundy, France  –  Total Wine


$20 – Christian Salmon, Loire Valley – Total Wine
$25 – Domaine Vincent Delaporte – Yianni’s Wine Shop, Virginia Beach

Paleo Pairing: Eggplant Ratatouille & Chianti Classico

Day 2 of my Paleo plan started off with a baked omelette with the ingredients leftover from last night’s dinner. (Flap steak, roasted veggies & caramelized onions). Delicious!

As I mentioned yesterday, I am putting myself to the Paleo challenge for the month of January and I will be sharing a daily recipe and perfect Paleo Pairing. I received some interesting comments yesterday about alcohol consumption while on Paleo and wine is indeed allowed in moderation on the plan.

Some believe you should only drink red wine on Paleo because it contains more antioxidants and resveratrol.  However, many dry white wines are actually lower in sugars and alcohol than red wine.   Many other forms of alcohol and beer are a no-go on Paleo because they are made from grains, but as we all know wine is made from grapes. Our stone age ancestors may have not been exposed to wine as we know it, but they probably  had fermented grapes at some point.

Some purists may disagree especially when weight loss is the number one objective.   I am by no means a nutritionist, but I have done my research on Paleo and my main objective is get a little healthier in 2014 and provide you with some great recipes and ideas for wine pairings on the nights you do want to have a glass.

Today’s perfect Paleo Pairing and recipe features eggplant ratatoiulle & baked chicken paired with a Chianti Classico. Marchese Antinori, Banfi & Tenuta are nice Chianti options. A Barbera would also be a great choice. Bon Appetit!


Day 2 Recipe: Eggplant Ratatouille & Baked Chicken 


¼ cup olive oil
½ cup dry red wine (Chianti)
1 medium yellow onion diced or julienned
4 cloves minced garlic
1 large eggplant diced or julienned
1 green bell pepper diced or julienned
1 red bell pepper diced or julienned
1 medium zucchini diced or julliened
1 28 oz can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper
¼ cup chopped basil (more for garnish)


Caramelize onions in the olive oil in a large saute pan for about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly golden. Add the eggplant to the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5-7 minutes. Add peppers and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, Italian Seasoning, minced garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute to release aromatics.  Add wine and tomatoes and cook for about 10-15 minutes until flavors are well integrated. Stir in ¼ cup chopped basil before serving. Garnish with basil leaves.  Serve with grilled or baked chicken or even roasted shrimp for a protein boost! Bon Appetit!

Flap Steak & Rioja


Sirloin Flap Steak is perhaps one of the most economical cuts of meat out there. It’s not only easy to cook, but it tastes great especially if you take the time to marinate it for at least a couple of hours. It’s similar to skirt steak, very flavorful, fatty and a little on the chewy side. Drizzle a little chimichurri sauce and dinner is served. Chimichurri sauce is a classic topping in Argentina for an assortment of grilled meats. While a Malbec would be delicious with this cut of meat, a robust Rioja is also a fantastic pairing. Rioja is a region in Spain that produces mostly red wines from the Tempranillo grape. This region is known for world class reds at a great value.

Recommended Producers:

Recipe: Marinated Flap Steak


Marinate 1 1/2 lb flap steak for 4-8 hours in the following marinade:

1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from one lime
4 garlic cloves minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon pepper


Preheat oven 425 degrees. Roast steak for 10-12 minutes for medium rare. Turning once. Let rest for at least 10 minutes and slice against the grain.