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In Lodi, wine comes first. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Meet the passionate people behind our handcrafted wines and gnarly old vines.

Randy Caparoso
 
March 26, 2013 | Randy Caparoso

The ZinFest Cooking School + Chef Ruben’s lamb cutlets & saffron allioli

Where there is great wine, there is intense appreciation of the culinary arts; especially at the annual ZinFest Wine Festival, where you will be able to experience the finest wines produced by over 50 Lodi Wine Country wineries.

Larrazolo & Espinosa

At this year’s ZinFest – taking place Saturday, May 18, 2013 (12-5 PM) at Lodi Lake Park – the ZinFest Cooking School will be anchored by two of Lodi’s own: Chef Ruben Larrazolo of the acclaimed Alebrijes Mexican Bistro, and Gerardo Espinosa, winemaker of Viñedos Aurora.

Chef Ruben and Mr. Espinosa have recently teamed up to open Viñedos Aurora at Pamplona Tapas in Downtown Lodi – a smart, contemporary style wine bar where Spanish inspired foods are offered right alongside the outstanding wines grown by second generation Lodi growers, the four Anaya brothers:  Victor Jr., Ramon, Armando and Gerardo.  (Please see recipes for Chef Ruben’s two dishes at the end of this blogpost).

This year’s ZinFest Cooking School will also feature the debut of John Hitchcock, the newly appointed Executive Chef of Lodi’s Towne House, the stunning wine country restaurant located in the 3-star Wine & Roses Hotel & Spa.  The Towne House stands on the recognized historic site of the original home built by Burton and Alice Towne at the turn of the last century.

The ZinFest Cooking School will begin at 1 PM under its own tent alongside the beautiful Lodi Lake.  The Cooking School schedule:

1:00 – 1:40 PM
Chef Ken Landis, Proprietor of Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn in Half Moon Bay, CA, demonstrates his Oxtail Stew, matched with the stupendously full and rich 2010 Michael David Earthquake Lodi Zinfandel.

Chef Mark Berkner

2:00 – 2:40 PM
Chef Mark Berkner, Proprietor of Restaurant Taste in Plymouth, CA, demonstrates his Deconstructed Potato Salad, matched with the unusually refined, sleek and minerally 2012 Uvaggio Lodi Vermentino.

3:00 – 3:40 PM
Chef John Hitchcock of Lodi’s own Town House Restaurant in the luxurious Wine & Roses Hotel, will demonstrate his Stone Fruit Salad (matched with the ultra-fine and airy fresh 2012 Bokisch Vista Luna Vineyard Borden Ranch-Lodi Garnacha Blanca), followed by his Tuna Tartare (shown with the bright, bouncy 2010 Bokisch Terra Alta Vineyard Clements Hills-Lodi Garnacha).

4:00 – 4:40 PM
Chef Ruben Larrazolo (Alebrijes Mexican Bistro) teams up with Winemaker Gerardo Espinosa (Viñedos Aurora) to show off dishes and wines from their exciting, new joint project, Pamplona Tapas in Downtown Lodi:  Salt Cod Fritters with Saffron Allioli (with the zesty, flinty/fragrant 2011 Viñedos Aurora Lodi Albariño), followed by Grilled Lamb Cutlets with Burnt Butter (perfectly matched to the sinewy, sensuous 2010 Viñedos Aurora Lodi Síntesis).

Chef Ken Landis

Chef Ken Landis comes to us from California’s Half Moon Bay, where he is the Chef/Proprietor of Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn (which he owns with his wife, Sommelier Ellen Landis CSW, CS, who will be presenting her own seminar under the ZinFest Wine School tent).  Landis Shores has been named among the Top 15 Inns for Wine Connoisseurs in North America, and Chef Landis’ feel for wine country cuisine has been influenced as much by his partnership with this Ms. Landis as the couple’s extensive culinary travels throughout North and South America, France, Australia, Spain, Italy and Portugal (tough life, but someone has to do it!).

Chef/Owner Mark Berkner of Plymouth’s acclaimed Restaurant Tastethe winemaker hangout in the Sierra Foothills of Amador County — makes a back-by-popular-demand return to the ZinFest Cooking School.  Mark, like his wife, Sommelier/Co-Proprietor Tracey Berkner (who will also be presenting a seminar in the Wine School tent), is an Adjunct Instructor of Culinary Arts at San Joaquin Delta College.  There are few restaurateurs as wine savvy as the Berkners, and Chef Mark promises that the match of his Deconstructed Potato Salad with Uvaggio‘s sleek, snappy Vermentino will be a knock-out.

So please be sure to circle May 18, 2013 on your calendar for the Lodi ZinFest.  Advance tickets are available for $45 through zinfest.com ($55 at the gate), or by calling Lodi Wine & Visitor Center at 209.365.0621.

Chef Ruben’s Salt Cod Fritters with Saffron Allioli

For the allioli:
2 organic free-range egg yolks
Pinch salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
20 strands of saffron, soaked in 1 tbsp. boiling water

For the fritters:
9 oz. salt cod
1 cup mashed floury potatoes
4 tbsp. milk or cream
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
3 free-range eggs, separated
salt and freshly ground pepper
vegetable oil for frying

To make the saffron allioli, place the 2 egg yolks in a bowl and add salt, garlic and lemon juice.  Whisk to combine.  Dribble in the oil, as slowly as you can possibly can, whisking continuously.  Continue to whisk until both oils are incorporated.  You should end up with a thick, unctuous, garlicky mayonnaise.  Stir in the soaked saffron, including the water in the strands were steeped in. this can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Soak the salt cod in cold water in the refrigerator 12-24 hours in advanced, changing the water halfway through.  Drain the water, rinse the salt cod, than place in a pan, cover with fresh water, and bring to boil.  Turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes.  Remove the fish from pan.  Peel off the skin and flake the fish, removing any tiny bones.  Add the mashed potatoes, milk, scallions, parsley, egg yolks and salt to taste.  Mix well.  Whisk the egg whites to soft peak and fold into the mixture.  Heat a sauce pan a third full of oil until a bit of bread sizzles and browns in a minute.  Add the salt cod mixture in tablespoonfuls  and fry until brown all over.  Drain for 2 minutes on paper towels, then serve with the allioli on the side.

Saffron strands

Chef Ruben’s Grilled Lamb Cutlets with Burnt Butter, Rosemary & Capers

1 rack of lamb
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
½ tbsp. olive oil
4tbsp. sweet butter
1 small spring fresh rosemary
1 heaping tbsp. capers
Juice of ½ lemon

Carve the lamb into thin individual cutlets.  Season with salt and pepper and rub with the oil. Heat a griddle pan on high heat until smoking.  Cook the cutlets for 2-3 minutes on each side, remove from pan, and let rest.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the rosemary.  When it starts to foam, it will start to turn a nutty color.  Add the capers, fry for 30 seconds, and then pour in the lemon juice.  Remove pan from the heat and season with salt and pepper.  Place the lamb in a serving dish and pour in the juices and burnt butter sauce.

Lodi Lake boaters during 2011 ZinFest

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