California Wine Country Cuisine

With its Mediterranean influences and quality local produce, this region’s food showcases the season’s best ingredients.

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The California Pantry

Olives: Cured green and black olives are often served as simple hors d’oeuvres but also feature prominently in tapenade, focaccia, and pasta. The common black Mission olive has a mildness that’s choice as a pizza topping or in a sauce.

Olive oil: Several olive oil companies, such as St. Helena Olive Oil, are based in northern wine country and offer oils flavored with citrus and herbs, which also thrive in the climate. Depending on the variety and processing, oils proffer fruity or peppery notes or bitter or mild qualities.

Wine: A staple on the table with nearly every supper, wine is also often used in local kitchens. A rich, sweet, late-harvest wine, like a sauvignon blanc or sémillon, can bolster a dessert sauce, for example. A red table wine adds tannins, fruitiness, and slight bitterness to tomato or mushroom sauces.

Artisanal cheese: Point Reyes Blue cheese, Cowgirl Creamery’s line of cow’s milk cheeses, and creamy versions of boucheron (goat’s milk cheese) offer a variety of textures and flavors for the region’s vegetarian fare.

Fresh herbs: Besides fennel, Mediterranean herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme grow wild in wine country, and cooks use them liberally to add a woodsy essence to pastas, pizzas, and sauces.

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