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Review: The Vintner's Kitchen

Chef William King’s second book is released

The wines of Oregon started to gain international recognition in the mid-1970’s, around the same time that red and white wines from California’s Napa Valley won the legendary ‘Judgment of Paris,’ beating French wines in a blind tasting conducted by French judges. Though the wines of Northern California may have stolen the spotlight on an international and domestic level, Oregon has continued to produce some of the world’s finest wines, gaining widespread renown for its Pinot Noirs in particular.

Oregon’s food scene has grown hand-in-hand with the increasing popularity Oregon wines, and The Vintner’s Kitchen: Celebrating the Wines of Oregon (Chef’s Bounty) brings these two elements together. In this cookbook, Chef William King brings together a collection of recipes from Oregon wineries, winemakers and restaurants, and each recipe includes a suggested wine pairing. Photographer Rick Schafer has provided beautiful pictures for most of the recipes (he also joined with King for “A Chef’s Bounty, Celebrating Oregon’s Cuisine”).

I knew I’d like this cookbook from the very first recipe. The recipe for Avocado Crostini sounds delicious, but the suggested pairing is what really caught my eye: A Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards Gruner Veltliner. Gruner veltliner is a varietal most commonly associated with Austria, appreciated for its white pepper nose and taste of citrus and pears. ‘Gruner’ has been one of my favorite whites over the past few years, and I have recommended it for everything from seafood and fish dishes to lighter pork and chicken. I not only whole-heartedly agree with the cookbook’s suggested pairing, but I was delighted to learn that Gruner is now being grown in the United States (the cookbook states that Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards is the first to do so).

The majority of the recipes are influenced by the European side of the Mediterranean, though a good number are also inspired by ingredients and flavors of the American Southwest and Mexico, such as Smoked Duck on Corn Cakes, Blue Corn Tamales, and Harvest Time Carnitas. As you might expect, several of the recipes also highlight the bounty of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, including a Spicy Oregon Pear Salsa with Oregon Jack Cheese and Hazelnut Crisps and a strong collection of appetizers and main courses that feature seafood and fish.

Finally, the cookbook isn’t just about serving wine with food; a number of the recipes call for wine as an ingredient. Recipes include Short Ribs braised in Syrah, Medallions of Pork with Caramelized Pears and Pear Wine Cream Sauce, and Oeufs en Meurette (poached eggs in a Pinor Noir sauce).
The Vintner’s Kitchen is a wonderful collection of recipes that offers a little something for everyone, from accessible recipes for the novice cook to more sophisticated flavors for die-hard foodies.

I was also impressed with the wine pairing recommendations, especially for the desserts. Though there is a constant barrage of articles and cookbooks that tout the pairing of dry wines with desserts, The Vinter’s Kitchen takes the right approach. It notes that dry wines are the ‘enemy’ of sweet desserts, and the book’s suggested pairings are all sweeter late harvest or dessert wines.

However, it also tells the reader the most important thing is not to worry about what is right or wrong and instead focus on what they like. This sort of advice – a gentle nudge in the right direction combined with a reminder that the most important thing is to just enjoy yourself – is the sort of approach I wish more in the industry would take.

—Chef Dennis Pitchford