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Tacos, street or restaurant style, are always good and are always in season! Sad to say when people hear “tacos” they think of the Taco Bell special — which is the American down played version of a Taco.  In truth, Tacos can be of anything; beef, shrimp, fish, pork and even vegetables. By definition, “taco es taco” - one hand, tortilla (corn or flour), some filling and a topping for a little extra flavor and you have a Taco. For the most part Tacos are like sandwiches - no real recipes only simple guidelines and one’s own desires and carvings.

The following recipe is one my favorites.  It’s fun, delightful, different and pairs really well with a Riesling. Yep, even Tacos call for a good wine. Just as the saying goes - “fine wine, fine food!”

Pork tacos

  • Pork 16 oz
  • Radish 2 ea
  • Cabbage 1/2 ea
  • Cilantro 1 bun
  • Oil 2 tb
  • 6” flour/corn tortillas 8 each
  • Mayo 1 c
  • Chili
  • Tomato 1 ea

Season pork with salt, pepper and oil.  Sear all the way around in a hot skillet, bout two mins on each side Using a crock pot, cook for bout 6 hours. Add bout 1/2 cup of water to crock with pork.  Pork should pull apart easily and nicely, it should appear to be stringy when done Thinly slice radish into sticks, thinly shred cabbage and chop cilantro; mix all together with a touch of seasoning In a food processor, purée mayo, tomato and chili.

Warm tortillas, spread a little chili mayo, top with a little of the pork(make sure the pork is still hot), finally top with radish slaw. ENJOY

To follow Chef Jason in his adventures of cooking follow him on twitter!  @ChefJRivas

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Banana French Toast


In my house, pancakes and waffles are the king of specialty breakfast items; be it they are topped with a pecan syrup, caramelized bananas or a brown sugar apple and raisin mix. But oh so many times it is French Toast that is cried for. Now in truth, the French do eat a version called Pan Perdu. In Europe, it is typically served as a dessert with a fruit

or ice cream topping. As Americans, it was our pure obsession to eat sweet things for breakfast which transformed the French Toast into what it is today. 

Even though French toast is “sweet,” it does not mean it could not be served for dinner or modified to add a bit more nutrition to the dish; using a high quality syrup, a whole grain artisan bread, fruit topping are just a few example. Remember, ingredients are only a part of the equation when eating healthy; portion size being the other half. The point is to make good food to put into your body (healthy and tasty). Note - good food doesn’t always have to be fancy food. Some of the best food you will eat will be “humble” food; and there is nothing more humble than bread!

The other day, I made a beautiful French Toast for my family and yes it was for dinner. I made my own bread, but you don’t have too. I make my own for a couple of reasons; my kids love homemade bread, it is an extra practice in honing my skills and I have secret love affair with baking. Now, I could bore you with a 3 day recipe for a good

Sourdough; then again, you could simply venture to a high end or specialty store where they will carry a fresh sourdough boule. Especially in today’s culinary world, a great deal of stores carry quality bread; in efforts to get their slice of the “pie.” I also topped my French toast off with Banana Syrup. Mind you, my French Toast was also served with wine…but we will get to that.

Banana French Toast

  • 6 slices of sourdough
  • 5 each eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 each banana
  • 1 cup maple syrup

1. slice bananas about 1/4” thick. Quickly sauté them in a skillet with a small amount of butter. cook for about 2 mins, then add syrup. bring boil to a boil and turn off heat.

2. whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla. pour into a pan big enough to hold a slice of bread (9x9 is recommended).

3. heat a non-stick griddle (if the griddle is not non-stick, spray with pan coating) on medium heat till hot. dip bread into egg mix and let soak for about 1 min on each side. 

4. remove bread from egg mix, allowing the excess to drain off prior to placing it in the skillet.

5. cook for about 2 mins on each side.

6. place on a plate (2 pieces per person) a top with Banana syrup and ENJOY!

Now back to the wine! As I have always said, “There is a wine for every time and every occasion.” Breakfast-Dinner is no different. Is not Breakfast-Dinner food? If you eat it, does it not nourish you, does it not taste good, does it not still require the same love and attention as any other meal?!

When you break it down, food is food. All food has flavor no matter what meal period you are serving it for. And it is the flavors of food (not the “meal period”) that you are pairing with wine. For this one, I choose California Girl from South Coast Winery. California Girl, or Cali Girl as it more affectionately called, is a table white wine. Even though it is classified as a “table” wine, it is far from drab. Cali Girl is a blend of 6 different grapes, primarily of Sauvignon Blanc. The blend of these grapes gives the wine a subtle

sweetness as well as nice fruit aroma. It is this delicate balance that also gives the wine a good opening and a nice finish; it also gives it the ability to be paired with a variety of different items—including Breakfast-Dinner. 

In fact, when pairing Cali Girl with French Toast; the toast itself will help to bring out a nice grassy note and the Banana syrup with help to

emphasize a sweet fruit flavor. It is a really nice pairing, but is it the only choice…..

To follow Chef Jason in his adventures of cooking follow him on twitter!  @ChefJRivas

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Raisin Bread

Raisin Bread (well mine at least), is a variation of Brioche bread. What is Brioche bread?? Well Brioche Bread comes from France and it simply means it contains butter and eggs (standard bread does not have butter and eggs). The butter and eggs will add richness in flavor and mouth feel. Technically, the fat of the butter and eggs will soften the gluten strands. Softening the gluten strands will break down some of the elasticity of the bread itself. Basically the bread will tear apart a bit easier - “the crumb will be more tender.”

Most times there is also a bit more sugar in a Brioche than a standard bread. All of this being said, Brioche lends itself very easily; to fruit, chocolate, spices, to breakfast or dessert. One the best things my grandma did, was take her Raisin Bread and turn it into French toast! And who is to say you can not have a french toast for dessert, topped with honey and Vanilla Ice Cream.

Just as with any home made bread, there is a down fall—it takes time. This recipe will take about 3 hours to make. It could be rushed, but why would you want too. Not to mention, when this bread is in the oven, you will understand and agree it was worth the wait. Remember! be patient. When the bread comes out of the oven don’t just rip it open and dive in. Let it cool to room temp prior to cutting.

Why, you may ask?

When any bread it is cut open right away, it will release steam and thus releasing moisture. By waiting to cut the bread, the moisture stays in the bread and makes for a better bread. And when it comes down to it, it is about better!

There are some key tips to help make that better bread.

First, give yourself time and forgiveness. Forgive yourself now if it does not work, your are not a master baker. And don’t rush yourself, have fun with it!

Second, use the right ingredients. Bread flour, is high in protein and thus produces a better gluten. When making bread, it is about all the gluten content. Yes, in Brioche we are taking steps to hinder some of the gluten building, but you still want and need gluten.

In the following recipe I use two different types of flour. The whole wheat flour is there for the flavor and mouth feel. Whole wheat flour will help give it that natural, earthy, wholesome flavor, almost nutty, — that “wow that is bread” flavor. Could you use plain AP flour, yes but it will not produce the same results nor will it produce the same flavor.

When it comes to baking you really need that natural protein in flour. Whole Wheat does not have enough, so if you used all whole wheat flour in bread it will come out too dense. Where as AP flour is so processed, chemicals have had to be added (not to mention the flavor is gone from it). Yes, flour has flavor and it is that flavor and performance your looking for.

Lastly, take your time and let it do its thing. A lot of making bread (any bread), is to hurry up and wait. However, on the plus side, it will give you time to; read, drink a cup of coffee, do some chores, take nap or just relax. It is the beauty part of bread, it does not require constant attention. In fact, some times, the more time you give it the better; then again to much time can be a bad thing for bread—so be careful.

Raisin Bread

  • 1/4c hot water
  • 1 c milk, room temp
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 4 oz butter (soft and room temp)
  • 2 ea eggs
  • 2 c raisins
  • 3 c bread flour
  • 1 c whole wheat flavor
  • 2 tspn kosher salt
  • cinnamon
  1. in a stand mixer add milk, water, sugar and yeast. stir to dissolve and let sit for 10 mins.
  2. add butter and eggs, mix till combined
  3. add half the flour, then raisin, then the final half of flour and salt. Mix for on medium for about 7 minutes using a dough hook. This kneads the dough and helps to build gluten. a ball should form that is not too sticky but not completely dry.
  4. place dough in a clean greased bowl, cover, then place in warm spot. let the dough rest and rise for about an hour (or till doubled in size).
  5. dump dough onto a lightly floured work surface. then do a letter fold—folding one side into the middle then other side over the top. followed with the same fold on the opposite ends. place dough back in bowl, cover, place in a warm spot for about another hour.
  6. dump dough onto a floured work surface and place flat about 3/4”-1” thick and roughly about the size of 13”x9” pan. Dust the top of the dough with a fair amount of cinnamon.
  7. Roll tightly, length wise, starting away from you or towards you. just before your last roll, fold the ends on angle towards the middle, then finish the roll. folding the ends inward will help seal the bread.
  8. Place roll in a bread loaf pan, you may have to squish it a bit for it to fit. make sure to press it in all the way to the bottom, cover let rest. turn on oven to 400
  9. just before placing the bread in the oven, cut a slit the entire length of the bread about 1/2” deep. this will help the bread to grow and expand. Bake about 30 mins then carefully remove from baking pan.
  10. bake an additional 15 mins till done. Thump the bottom of the bread, it will sound hallow when done.
  11. let cool to room temp….ENJOY

Again, a piece slightly toasted with a tab of butter….OH MY! This recipe can easily be modified, with the addition or substitution of other ingredients. It maybe a day late and 2 dollars short of Valentine’s Day, but you don’t need one particular day to do something special for someone special. Turn this Raisin Bread into french toast, top with vanilla ice cream and honey. Serve it along side of a Sparkling Gewurztraminer.


Absolutely!! A wine for every time and every occasion—Raisin Bread is no different. The sweetness and subtle flavors will pair wonderfully with the spice, sweetness and raisins of the bread. Pour a glass, slice a piece of bread, surround yourself with some good company and ENJOY!

To follow Chef Jason in his adventures of cooking follow him on twitter!  @ChefJRivas

Tags: Food recipes chef chef secrets Vineyard Rose

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Be Hostess with the Mostest this Holiday Season:

imageThe secret’s out!!!  We figured out a way to be the true “Hostess with the Mostest” this Holiday Season…. 

The Hostess company may be losing its Twinkie-like twinkle, but it’s no cause to lose your Ho Ho (Ho) for the season.  The elves at South Coast Winery have discovered a great little recipe from their friends at LA MAGAZINE showing you how to make your own Hostess(ish) devil’s food cupcakes —  marshmallow fluff center and all!  Click here to Check it out.  

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A Party Opener- Cheese

Cheese will always make a great party opener. It can be put on a tray for a self serve; it can be put on toast point of some kind, then tray passed; it can even be manipulated a bit and paired with some other ingredients then served as a plated first course. However, one of the greatest things about cheese—it is a finished product that does not need anything else but to be enjoyed. Any manipulation done to cheese is only done to enhance its natural flavor.

Before one can choose a cheese, one needs to understand cheese. Cheese is broken down into 3 categories—soft, semi firm, and firm. The firmness of cheese is typically determined by its fat content and age. And to clarify, “American Cheese” is not a cheese; however, America does produce some great cheeses. In fact, America is starting to receive some recognition from other countries for the cheese it produces. Cheese is made all over the country and can range from region to region. Most notably, California and Wisconsin are currently producing some of the best cheeses in the country… “California means happy cows, and great things come from happy cows.”

Starting with a Soft Cheese, these are the ones that will most likely have the highest fat content. Brie, Cream Cheese, Mascarpone, Boursin are some of the most well known soft cheeses. By the way, Cream Cheese is an American product; in fact, other countries refer to cream cheese as “Philly Cheese.” The salty content in these cheese are not normally that high. Due to their texture, they are best enjoyed on a cracker or toast point of some kind. If one was looking to manipulate a cheese, a soft cheese is the best way to go. At times they can be pungent, but they also adopt to flavors very well.

The list of flavor possibilities is almost endless. I have always liken a soft cheese to a sparkling wine. Sparkling wines possess the same uncanny-ability as a soft cheese and canto be paired with just about anything. And for this, I strongly recommend a Sparkling and Soft cheese combination.

When finally deciding on exactly what Sparkling and Soft cheese duo to create, take into consideration the dryness of the wine and the salt content of the cheese. As with any pairing, one wants a harmonious balance of salt and sweet. Again, as with any pairing it is quite easy for one to over power the other.

Moving on to Semi Firm cheese, these cheeses have a bit of age on them. It is during the aging process that allows the natural moisture to evaporate, thus allowing the cheese to firm up. Cheddar, Swiss, Gruyere, and Havariti are a few examples of Semi Firm cheeses. The salt content in these cheeses are normally a bit higher and have a tendency to be known as sharp. The sharper the cheese, the older the cheese—normally. The incorporation of flavors is always done during the making process and is a little more difficult afterwards; while maintaining its composition. That being said, semi firm cheeses are great for sauces and fondues. These cheeses will carry more of an exact wine, based on the flavor profile of the cheese itself. General rule of thumb, look for a white that is soft, with a subtle sweetness and a hint of citrus. Some bold whites, such as reserve Chardonnay, will work too; as long as it can handle the natural richness of the cheese at hand. If one tastes a wine and craves (not to mention taste) bread (yeast), a good chance it will pair wonderfully with a semi firm cheese.

Does this mean a semi firm cheese will not pair with reds?

NO! Reds can pair with cheese also. A light body, soft (low in tannins) red will react in the same fashion as a stronger white and will pair nicely. Now I am sorry to say, an exact wine and cheese pairing can not be given. All taste is subjective, and everyone has their own likes and dislikes—a better and best.

Lastly, the firm cheese, these are cheese that have been aged for a long time. They are dry and have a good salt content. Most recognizable of this category is Parmesan Reggiano. These cheeses are aged in caves or other temperature controlled areas.

These cheeses can possess a nutty flavor, a very sharp flavor and at times a bitter flavor. These cheeses are best used in a finishing application, due to its strong, bold flavor. Picking a wine can be the most difficult of the 3 choices. One might think, bold cheese equals bold wine; however, that is not always the case. Yes, the desire is to have both food and wine be equal in boldness; but sometimes flavors will battle against each other with a negative outcome.

When picking the right wine for a firm cheese, think of a wine with some age; both bolder red and white wines will work. With these cheeses it is time to pull out the Syrah and Cabs. Again though, try not to go to strong.

Alas, one last question may still remain …”What about Blue Cheese?” Some might say, it is big cheese and thus a big wine is called for. On the contrary, I will say a strong, sharp, bit salty cheese and then I will say a sweet wine; like a late harvest wine. One of the best flavor combinations I have had, was pairing a bit of Pointe Reyes Blue Cheese with a 30 year old Sauternes. As always, there is no exact play list, but mere suggestions. Happy tastings and ENJOY.

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Waffle Cookie

The waffle iron can be used in the same manner as a panini machine to make sandwiches. Grilled cheese, Roasted vegetable…well any hot sandwich for that matter can be done in a waffle iron. Left over steak, if there ever is any can be heated up in a waffle iron too. Due to its design, the iron will also act like a little oven; and bake cookies.

This cookie was born out of necessity, followed with a bit laziness. A while ago I saw a picture of a Waffle Cookie, I thought it looked really cool and said to myself, “I have to try it.” At the same time my princess wanted to have a Tea Party with real cookies, but she also wanted to make a new cookie recipe. Lazy…well the waffle iron was out from earlier and I did not feel like messing with the oven—VOILA a waffle cookie born. On a whole, this cookie is a simply cookie and a standard chocolate chip base (sorta). Using the waffle iron also cooks the cookie in about half of the time. Waffle cookies come out a bit on the crispy side, but that is not always a bad thing. Once they are baked, this cookie will behave as any other cookie, except look really damn cool.

The same with any other cookie base, flavors can be modified and adapted to one’s liking; nuts, chocolate, spices, dried fruits,etc.

  • M&M Cookies
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 6 oz butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking power
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. 1 cup M&Ms
  2. add sugars to the mixing bowl. add butter and mix with a paddle attachment. mix till creamy and smooth.
  3. mix in egg
  4. slowly add dry ingredients, just till fully incorporated.
  5. add M&Ms and mix on high for one minute.
  6. heat waffle iron on high.
  7. flatten a piece of cookie dough about 1/2 ” thick and about 3” in diameter. place on hot iron and cook for about 5 minutes.
  8. after opening the lid to the iron, let cool for about 3 mins prior to carefully removing cookie

So your eating cookies, does that mean you can not enjoy a glass of wine the same time? I have always said and will continue to say-there is a wine for every time and every occasion. Wine is not intended to only be served with elegant food. Wine is comfortable drink and pairs wonderful with comfort food. For me, and many others, nothing is more comfortable then a good cookie. Although traditionally, a Sparkling wine would be a starting course or be a celebrator drink, but I ask, “why can’t a cookie be something to celebrate or start the meal?” No, I would not actually celebrate a cookie, but in all truth a sparking wine is a good pairing for a cookie for several reasons.

Sparkling Pinot Grigio

Sparkling wines have the natural ability to go savory or sweet. A cookie has a bit of a salty taste that will really bring out the subtle flavors of the wine. As always keep in mind not all sparkling wines are the same. To pair a good cookie with a good sparkling, look for a nicely balanced good sparkling wine. Good food calls for good wine—ALWAYS,


This sparkling Pinot Grigio is a prime example of a fine wine that will pair beautifully with a good cookie. “Cookie and Wine? Really?!,” some still might be asking themselves.

Yes! Absolutely and ENJOY.

To follow Chef Jason in his adventures of cooking follow him on twitter!  @ChefJRivas

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