Letters from Lodi

An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.

Randy Caparoso
April 27, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

The 2011 ZinFest Cooking School


Foods and wines we really love at the ZinFest Cooking School…

In addition to the ZinFest Wine School at Lodi’s ZinFest Wine Festival taking place this coming May 14 in Lodi Lake Park, wine lovers may enjoy delectable tastes of the region’s wine country cuisine under the tent of the ZinFest Cooking School.

There’s a lot to be said about accessibility in a sensory sense, and everyday affordability.  One of the joys of the lush, juicy, pure and fruit forward qualities characteristic of wines grown in the Delta is their ease with foods that we all actually love to eat… everyday, or or as much as possible.  In informative cooking seminars at the ZinFest Cooking School, four of Lodi’s top regional will demonstrate recipes that fit that bill, and reflect the way we love to enjoy our food and wine!

The schedule of cooking demos, with little blurbs on our guest chefs:


1:00-1:45 PM – Chef Toussaint Potter does seafood sausage

Chef Potter is the Culinary Arts Director of the Art Institute of California-Sacramento.  “Chef T” is a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and his spin on Delta region cuisine has a worldly flair of someone who has worked in Parisian restaurants (after graduating from Peter Kump’s Cooking School in New York and l’Ecole de Cuisine in Paris), as well as numerous other renowned restaurants and hotels in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Switzerland.  Monsieur Toussaint has also headed kitchens in Vegas, and has served as head Culinary Instructor at San Joaquin Delta College.  But if anything, he knows how to make cooking both fun and educational.

2:00 -2:45 PM – Chef Ken Landis does pulled pork with Zinfandel mole sauce

Chef Landis comes to us from California’s Half Moon Bay, where he is the Chef/Proprietor of Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn (with his wife, Co-Proprietor/Sommelier Ellen Landis, who will be presenting a tasting at the ZinFest Wine School).  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 travels throughout North and South America, France, Australia, Spain, Italy and Portugal.


3:00-3:45 PM – Chef Nick Guantone’s Italian wood fire cooking

Chef Guantone’s Lodi based, family run business, Guantonio’s Italian Wood Fire Cuisine, has raced to phenomenal success on the wheels of a mobile wood-fired pizza oven.  Their bewildering range of handmade “pies” have garnered praises like “perfection” throughout the region, particularly at numerous winery events and festivals — margheritas, gorgonzola-onion, pesto-sausage, grilled strawberry-rhubarb, prime ribeye steak, baby artichoke-fennel-asparagus… you get the picture, now come and experience it for yourself!

4:00-4:45 PM – Chef Mike Midgley does Chinese chicken tacos

Oh, you’d be amazed at how good chicken, Chinese seasonings, tacos and a luscious, good ol’ Lodi Zinfandel taste together — a sublime mingling of spices.  Chef Mike of Stockton’s Midgley Catering can predict this based upon time honored success, although his engagingly fun, humorous approach to cooking chatter certainly seals the deal.  Mike has attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, and as a former contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef” (Season Two), he know how to entertain!


Bonus Preview:  Chef Landis’ pulled pork with Zinfandel mole sauce

Highly recommended with, of course, a great Lodi zin:

1 (5 lb.) pork butt or shoulder roast

1 cup roasted pepita seeds

6 large garlic cloves

2 tsp. Mexican seasoning*

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 chipotle chiles (seeded)

1-2 tsp. cocoa powder

1 tsp. dark cane or corn syrup

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 lb. grated queso blanco (Mexican cheese)

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup olive oil plus 2 tbsp.

1 onion, quartered & roasted until browned

1 tbsp. raisins

1 cup Zinfandel (reduced to 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup heavy cream

flour or corn tortillas plus cilantro sprigs and lime wedges for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Insert the garlic cloves into incisions cut in the pork.  Place in a plastic bag and add the lime juice, 1 tbsp. Mexican seasoning, plus salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the pork to marinate at room temp 1 hour.  Rub with 1 tbsp. olive oil and roast for 4-5 hours, until very tender.  Cool for 30 minutes.  Using 2 forks, pull the meat off the bones into small pieces and set aside.

In a food processor, combine the seeds, peppers, onion, 1 tbsp. Mexican seasoning, cocoa, raisins, dark cane syrup, and the Zinfandel.  Pulse until combined, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  With the machine running, add the remaining cup of oil in a slow steady drizzle until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Pour the nut mixture into a saucepan and whisk in the chicken stock and cream.  Bring the sauce up to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Keep warm until ready to serve.

For tacos, place pork in each tortilla.  Spoon some of the mole sauce over the pork. Place some of the grated cheese on top of the sauce and garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges.

* Mexican Seasoning

1/4 cup dried oregano

3 tbsp. dried chile powder

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. onion powder

1 tsp. salt

1 pinch ground cloves

1 pinch ground cinnamon

Zinfest 2011 wine label



Lodi Wine Visitor Center
2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Daily 10:00am-5:00pm

Lodi Winegrape Commission
2545 West Turner Road, Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm

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