little miss red wine

Sharron Peterson
Sommelier Sharron Peterson

I’m very pleased to introduce to you my friend Sharron Peterson! She’s a fun, energetic, and very likable wine professional and I can’t wait for you guys to get to know her a little better. Sharron will be helping me out with wine pairings for my recipes. It should be a lot of fun. Here’s a little more about Sharron:

Sharron Peterson is a sommelier, wine educator and a soon to be a graduate of the University of California Davis Winemaking/Enology Program. For 13 years, she has lived the “wine life” in major cities such as San Francisco, Napa, and Seattle. She is on a mission to educate wine lovers in a fun, snob-free zone throughout the country.

Whether it’s for a wine class of 10 or a TV appearance, Sharron brings her wine knowledge, unique career experience and a never ending repertoire of wine tales to create an entertaining, educational experience for wine lovers of all ages. In the future she will be releasing her own wine and pursuing her love for writing. Currently, Sharron has been chosen from over 1,000 candidates nationwide as a cast member for season II of the reality show The Winemakers, which is set to air on PBS in 2010.


best restaurant party

Joe Harvey and Jennifer Lingenfelter of Local Restaurant Week
Joe Harvey and Jennifer Lingenfelter of Local Restaurant Week

Once again Pittsburgh Magazine hosted the Best Restaurant Party, and this year I got to go with my friends from Vivo.

The Vivo crew proudly displayed a Tamagnini hand-operated flywheel slicer from Parma, Italy. We used it to slice our house-cured duck prosciutto. The prosciutto was a hit–the duck melted in your mouth like butter and the melon and balsamic reduction were simple but most delicious accompaniments.

It was a great time for us chefs to see and visit with all of our colleagues. Typically we never see each other because of the long hours we spend in the kitchen!  A diverse list of the best restaurants in town participated in this event. The list included: Avenue B, Bangkok Balcony, big Catering, Bistro 19, Casbah, Church Brew Works, Claddaugh Irish Pub, Common Plea Restaurant, Cross Keys Inn, Dinette, Eat ‘n Park, Eleven, Franktuary, Girasole, Gullifty’s, Harris Grill, Hyeholde Restaurant, Ibiza Tapas Restaurant and Wine Bar, Ichiban, Il Pizzaiolo, Iovino’s Café, Isabella on Grandview, JAC’s Cafe, Jimmy Wan’s Restaurant & Lounge, Joseph Tambellini Restaurant, Kaya, LePommier, Levy Restaurants, Mad Mex, Mineo’s Pizza House, Mio Kitchen & Wine Bar, Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, Nakama Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar, Panera Bread, Pangea, Penn Brewery, Piccolo Forno, Plum Pan Asian Kitchen, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Salt of the Earth, Sesame Inn, Seviche, Silk Elephant, Smallman Street Deli, Soba, Square Cafe, SweetHouse Bake Shop, Taj Mahal, Tamari, The Carlton, Toast! Kitchen & Wine Bar, Typhoon, Umi, Vivo, Vocelli Pizza, Wild Rosemary, Wooden Angel and Yo Rita’s.

Here I am working the Tamagnini slicer
Here I am working the Tamagnini slicer
Chef Daniel, Chris Fennimore, and Sam DiBattista
Chef Daniel, Chris Fennimore, and Sam DiBattista

rabbit with pears

Picture recipe for rabbit with pears
Picture recipe for rabbit with pears

I always have the urge to cook rabbit for Easter. Once again I was not allowed to, and I had to wait until later on to do so. Last fall I canned pears from our pear tree, and I thought they would taste great in this dish.

This recipe is actually quite simple, and despite the many steps it’s easy to cook. You can substitute fresh pears or even store bought canned pears, since I don’t have that many more left to give you.


  • 1 rabbit
  • 1/4 cup calvados or brandy
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 medium size turnips cut into cubes
  • 1 rutabaga cut into thick strips
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 1 tsp. chicken bullion
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 fresh oregano sprig
  • 3-4 pears canned/fresh
  • 6 oz. baby spinach
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Make a paste with the garlic cloves, calvados, salt and pepper–I like to use my mortar and pestle for this. Rub the paste on the rabbit pieces. The butcher can break down the rabbit for you or if you feel adventurous, you can do it yourself–a rabbit is very similar to a chicken in this sense. Let it marinate refrigerated for at least a half hour.

While the rabbit marinates, peel and cut the rutabaga and the turnips. Reserve the rutabaga in water.

Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large dutch oven or pan, and lightly brown the turnips. Remove from the oil and reserve.

Flour rabbit, add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, and brown the rabbit. Remove the rabbit and set aside. Saute shallot in the rabbit oil, then deglaze the bottom of the pan with the pear liquid and white wine. Mix in the chicken bullion at this point.

Return rabbit to the pan. Sprinkle the thyme and oregano over the rabbit.

Rinse and place the rutabaga and turnips over the rabbit. Salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the rabbit and vegetables are fork tender, around 15 to 20 minutes. Mix in the pears and cover for 5 more minutes to warm them up. If you are using fresh pears add them right after the turnips.

Wilt spinach in a separate saute pan and arrange in the center of the plate with rabbit, turnips, rutabaga and pears. Drizzle the juices from the pan over the rabbit and serve.

See the wine pairing for this recipe at best when shared: rabbit with pears.

Buen provecho!


morel hunter

We finally got a little rain, temperatures are more stable and its starting to feel like spring in beautiful Western Pennsylvania.
Many have been waiting for these weather conditions since it indicates the beginning of morel season.

Mushroom foraging is a favorite activity of mine, and Glen Wantje was kind enough to take me with him on a early morning a couple of days ago.

It was a very successful foraging expedition. Our findings included both yellow and black morels.

At one point while I was concentrating on looking around the ground I happened to look up to see a shy but curious raccoon watching me from behind a tree only a few feet away from the mushrooms–maybe I was taking her breakfast. I’m sure there were plenty of mushrooms we didn’t find, plenty for everyone.

Finding wild eatables is something I enjoy very much. Thank you Glen!

white morel
yellow morel (Morchella esculenta)
black morel
black morel (Morchella elata)
Glen sneaking up on some mushrooms
This woodland creature is very interested in our activities. We are trespassing on her mushroom hunting turf!
a nice haul!
mushroom breakfast
Breakfast of champions!